Readers unsubscribing from r/news after Reddit drama following terrorist attack

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Reddit drama is a popular topic on this blog. With so much content being produced every day, sites like Reddit and Digg helped filter and verify relevant stories. Dubbed “the front page of the internet”, scanning the top stories of Reddit gave readers a glimpse of what was really popular around the web.

So it was something of a surprise when waking up this morning, and hearing of the terrible attack in Orlando, that there was little mention of the event on Reddit’s top news section. In fact the moderators of r/news seemed to be deleting posts and comments at an alarming rate. Other sub-reddits on the site picked up the slack, and discussions surrounding this tragedy were had on less than appropriate political and reaction forums.

Officially, this censorship was enacted to help focus discussion on the one major post used to consolidate discussion. This might have been understandable, as when news breaks like this, one would imagine a popular sub-reddit would be inundated with submissions. On a top post, the moderators of r/news claimed they were being brigaded by other communities seeking to spread an agenda of conflict with hate speech comments and posts.

/r/news was brigaded by multiple subreddits shortly after the news broke. This resulted in threads being filled with hate speech, vitriol, and vote manipulation.

We did a poor job reacting to the brigades and ultimately chose to lock several threads and then consolidate other big threads into a megathread.

Brigades are still underway and there is still a lot of hate speech prevalent in the threads.

While there were absolutely some less than civil comments being submitted, it’s somewhat disturbing to see a “kill it with fire” approach to post moderation. Eliminating all mentions of the shooters affiliation with terrorist organizations, and even disrupting discussions where folks were sharing information on emergency responses and pleas for blood donations.

Yet again we see the problems inherent to a business model which depends heavily on volunteer labor. Moderators of a news forum totaling almost 9 million subscribers are not paid. Building a small fiefdom, we see that either those individuals in charge are easily co-opted by outside interests, or are in a position of power where they can easily run an agenda. Adding gas to this fire, when questioned about these policies, one moderator for r/news not-so-helpfully suggested that a person seeking an explanation to this censorship should “kill yourself”.

I6duX4rIt would seem that posting about blood donations or questioning the mods is hate speech, but this moderator’s response to the situation has garnered no public disciplinary reaction.

These situations have become a bit more frequent of late for Reddit. We saw similar policing of content following the New Years Eve sexual assaults in Germany. The official response claiming protections against hate speech, yet using tools to recover banned and deleted comments finding little evidence for such draconian moderation.

In the wake of this story, a number of smaller “news” sub-reddits have been created to spread information, and in response to the initial backlash, r/news has reversed some of its policy on banning stories. Still, its not surprising to see the subscriber base for r/news slowly eroding. Over the time its taken to write this editorial, we’ve seen roughly 2500 people remove r/news from their feeds. That still puts r/news at around 8.9 million followers, but this debacle has certainly delivered all of Reddit a black eye.

If you can’t find relevant news on “the front page of the internet”, what is Reddit good for?

 

Ellen Pao Steps Down as Reddit Interim CEO, Which Probably Won’t Change Much…

ellen pao steps down as Reddit ceoIt’s been an interesting couple of weeks at Reddit. The self-proclaimed “Front Page of the Internet” has been in a state of transition, as admins and investors work towards better monetizing the service.

Ellen Pao’s brief trek as CEO was peppered with controversy. Redditors questioned her policy regarding “safe places” after the admin team banned sub-reddits like Fat People Hate, but left racist haven Coon Town intact. Reddit’s community places a fairly high value on “authenticity”, and Pao’s personal life seemed to rub many the wrong way. High profile lawsuits regarding gender discrimination, and a husband accused of millions of dollars worth of investment fraud, fed an unending examination of her actions, policy, and whether she was the right fit for CEO of a social news aggregate built on volunteer labor.

Recently, the firing of a high profile community admin, responsible for coordinating the wildly popular AMA question and answer sessions, threw more fuel on a smoldering fire. Moderators, volunteers in charge of managing individual sub-reddits, protested by blocking access to their specific forums.

Ellen Pao took to traditional media to apologize for missteps and miscommunications, but this only added to the ire, for many it was further illustration of how out of touch Pao was with the Reddit brand and community. A petition calling for her removal as CEO quickly topped 200,000 signatures. Continue reading “Ellen Pao Steps Down as Reddit Interim CEO, Which Probably Won’t Change Much…”

Reddit Wins for Most Mysterious April Fools Day Prank?

We all love a good internet mystery or alternate reality game, and Reddit cooked up a simple, but compelling gag which at the time of this post, is still on-going. All it takes to “play” is a simple press of a button…

reddit april fools the button game arg mystery

From the Reddit Blog:

reddit,

When this post is 10 minutes old, a button and timer will become active at /r/thebutton. The timer will count down from 60 seconds. If the button is pressed the timer will reset to 60 seconds and continue counting down. Only users logged into accounts created before 2015-04-01 can press the button.

You may only press the button once.

We can’t tell you what to do from here on out. The choice is yours.

Cryptic. Right now, Reddit users are clicking quickly, with over 100,000 people already having pushed the button. The timer rarely drops below 58 seconds. I’ll be saving my press for later.

What happens when the timer runs out? We’ll just have to wait and see…

PS4 User Account Hacked, Sony Refuses to Refund $600 in Fraudulent Charges

sony ps4I really want to jump into a pages-long, old-man tirade about what video gaming was like when I was a kid. When the “bits” of a console were single digit. When playing a game meant punching in a cartridge and pressing the power button. Where instead of waiting for updates to download, the worst “tech support” we’d need to perform was blowing out some dust from the tray. But I digress…

Redditor Kadjar posted yesterday about an infuriating aspect of modern day gaming, the fact that we don’t own our games in quite the same way we used to with cartridges and discs. Instead we have an account, and our games are attached to that account. Kadjar’s Playstation Network account was compromised, and he woke up to $600 in fraudulent charges and the discovery that his PS4 was no longer attached to his account. Someone else had all his stuff and racked up some huge bills.

Worse, upon discovering the hijack, and contacting Sony, he got some bad news. Sony would only reverse $150 of the charges. If he used his credit card company’s ability to dispute the charges, Sony would ban his account and wipe out any and all record of any game attached to his account, even those not in dispute and purchased legally. Continue reading “PS4 User Account Hacked, Sony Refuses to Refund $600 in Fraudulent Charges”

Man Fixes $4500 “Failed” Toyota Hybrid Battery with $20 in Cleaning Products.

This is an incredible story. People often complain about the costly battery repairs on hybrids and EVs. Redditor Scoodidabop is quoted $4500 to replace the battery in a Toyota Camery Hybrid, as the car’s management system says the battery is failing.

toyota camry hybrid failed batteryTurns out he’s an electrician, so he removes the pack from the car and tests each individual cell. ALL of them check out. No problems.

Turns out a bunch of little copper connectors had corrosion. That corrosion was preventing the battery from operating normally. $20 worth of cleaning products later, his battery is functioning normally.

totyota camery hybrid battery

The frustrating aspect of this story is the notion that car manufacturers charge individuals to replace the entire battery pack, when individual cells sell for around $50. Let alone cases like this where there really wasn’t any need to pay almost $5000 to gut the car and replace the battery. It seems very wasteful considering how many rare elements go into producing EV battery packs.

You can read through the whole process on Scoodidabop’s IMGUR gallery.

Mayor of Chattanooga Does Reddit AMA on Providing Community Funded Fiber Broadband

It’s been an ongoing debate, now focused on State vs Federal rights. Should the FCC have the right to circumvent state law, to help smaller communities provide broadband data to their residents.

Chattanooga TN has become a poster child for how to rollout gigabit fiber paid with public funds, beating Google Fiber to gigabit speeds in 2010, but state law prevents the project from expanding into other communities. Four years after Chattanooga reached gigabit, most large cable broadband markets still struggle to reach one tenth the network speed of “Gig City”, and most consumers pay significantly more for slower broadband.

The city could also become the first piece of a new smart energy grid for the country.

chattanooga speed test gigabit fiber broadbandChattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Harold DePriest, CEO of EPB (Chattanooga’s electric company which manages the broadband project) took to Reddit to answer questions about how the project has impacted their residents.  It’s an interesting discussion, delving into the politics of dealing with the FCC and State governments, but if your data is slow in your area, seeing speedtests like the one linked from the AMA might break your heart a little bit.

You can see a video detailing Chatanooga’s efforts to build a smarter energy grid below.

EPB SmarterGrid HD from EPB Fiber Optics on Vimeo.

r/Technology no longer a default on Reddit

reddit bannerI covered some of the turmoil recently, that moderators of the Technology section of social news site Reddit were blocking specific topics, and that the community of people subscribed and submitting stories to the subReddit were unaware of the ban on certain words and terms. This came to a head when it was discovered (via a snarky moderator message) that all posts related to Tesla Motors had secretly been banned.

Late yesterday it was leaked that r/Technology would no longer be a default subReddit. It’s an important distinction for the community. Default status means that every person who signs up a new account automatically gets subscribed to a number of communities. It pretty much guarantees that the community will remain popular as all new members are more likely to encounter it. At the time of this writing, r/Technology had over 5 million subscribers.

Popularity might actually be the kiss of death for some of these subs. As Reddit’s work force is largely volunteer, communities which get too large can be difficult to manage, and there is always the fear that a few people at the top of the moderator list could be co-opted by an outside party looking to profit off of a community. r/Technology now joins r/Politics and r/Atheism on the list of former defaults which crumbled.

Reddit user Doctor_McKay  posted a timeline on the r/Technology scandal. What remains to be seen is if another technology community will rise to take their place on the list of defaults.

Top five of the week starting March 31st – Leef, Lumias, and a Potato?

What a week! Tons of hot tech news dropped, and we got to have a little fun as well. Here’s a run down on your favorite stories from the last seven days!

micromax and prestigio

5- Microsoft BUILD 2014 Kicks Off With Windows Phone 8.1

Developers were the focus, but consumers finally got official word on all of the updates coming down the pipe for Windows Phone 8.1. Along with a pair of new Nokias, Microsoft looks to be building a much stronger portfolio as the third place mobile competitor.

Google-Fiber1

4- Google Looks to Become Wireless Carrier in Fiber Areas?

A little nugget from the rumor mill, but one welcomed by the internet community at large. With their reputation for market disruption, and the small successes they’ve found in delivering fiber internet to homes, it would seem many consumers would strongly consider doing business with Google as a cell phone carrier…

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3- Corrupting User Moderated Web Sites: r/Technology Bans Tesla Stories?

When your site or service is built on volunteer workers, there’s always the potential that some of them might be corrupted by outside influences. Reddit had a meltdown when it was discovered that r/Technology had been shadowbanning any story with the word Tesla in it. Rogue moderator, or example of social news site corruption?

leef access microsd otg reader for android

2- Review: The Leef Access MicroSD card reader for Android Phones

As not all Android phones come with SD cards any more, this is a handy little gadget which can help you add and manage storage while you’re out and about!

potato unboxing long term review somegadgetguy

1- Potato Unboxing, 1st Impressions, Full Review, and Comparison to the LG G2

We decided to play along this April Fools Day, and produced this ridiculous 18 minute long video unboxing and review of one of our favorite sources of starchy carbs. Little did we now that many people online feel the same way about unboxing videos as we do…