What’s going on with the Reddit controversy? You may be here because you’ve read headlines and seen rumors about Reddit shutting down or Redditors protesting. This blog will give you a quick rundown (a “primer” you might say) of what’s going on. Also, check out my other post about “Reddit alternatives” if you’re interested in other sites that are similar to Reddit. Personally, I’m going to stay with Reddit. I like the subreddits that I’m subscribed to and I enjoy the dialogue and the things Reddit does to help the less fortunate. I originally moved to Reddit after the big Digg meltdown (yes, I was a Digg “power user”), and I’m not ready to switch again. There are still a lot of good things about Reddit. (Note: You can highlight anything in this article and share it on FB or Twitter automatically!)A primer on the #Reddit controversy. Everything you need to know. Click To Tweet
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happening with Reddit, with more details below:
- An employee of Reddit and former admin of Reddit’s IAmA, Victoria Taylor, was fired. No one has said why.
- This left a lot of AMAs that she was going to run the very next day high and dry. Mods weren’t notified. In fact, one user called “karmanaut” only noticed by realizing she was gone when he saw that the “a” wasn’t by her username anymore.
- In protest, many moderators took their subreddits private. This was also a protest for feeling that the volunteers at Reddit weren’t appreciated or communicated with. Meanwhile, at least one other mod/content creator has left and closed up shop.
- It was later revealed that another popular Reddit employee, who created and organized the Secret Santa gift exchange, was fired a week or two ago.
- Another former Reddit employee came out with news that he was fired for having cancer. He later took down his AMA about the incident.
- A petition was started asking for the Reddit CEO to be let go.
- The Reddit CEO, Ellen Pao, has made statements that this will all blow over and she’s not leaving.
- Redditors are talking about alternative sites.
Here are the details:
AMA Admin at Reddit FiredThe firing of AMA admin Victoria started the @Reddit controversy. Click To Tweet
This is what started everything. Victoria Taylor, aka u/Chooter, was fired from Reddit. She was the Director of Talent at Reddit and worked as a liaison between Reddit and the AMA subreddit, along with members of the public who participated in the AMAs. No one has stated why she was let go.
A Reddit moderator, u/Karmanaut, discovered that she was fired when he realized she no longer had an “a” by her name indicating she was an admin. The other mods at IAmA weren’t warned beforehand, so many AMAs that were scheduled to run, with Victoria’s help, could no longer be held. The mods took the subreddit private, stating they couldn’t keep doing their job without Victoria or at least sufficient time to work out something new.
Mods Start Turning Subreddits Private
Other mods began (and many still are) turning subreddits private, both in support of Victoria and also to show their anger at the lack of communication. They also felt that the work of volunteers wasn’t being respected. The subreddits that went private included IAmA, AskReddit, funny, books, science, music, cooking, gaming, history, art, videos, gadgets, todayIlearned, lifeprotips, documentaries, jokes, pics, Dataisbeautiful, movies, and more, numbering up to 300 or more. Many are emphasizing that although they like Victoria, their protest really isn’t about her firing. It’s about communication and appreciation.
In addition, at least one “content creator” on Reddit has stepped down. User solidwhetstone announced that he was closing down r/crappydesign permanently and stepping down as a moderator of r/art. He posted daily content to Reddit. However, his departure has come under fire, as other people also helped create and mod the subreddit. Some users are very unhappy about his public statement and taking down the subreddit.
Secret Santa Admin Fired
The next employee of Reddit to announced that he was let go was an employee who invented the Secret Santa Gift Exchange on Reddit, which is hugely popular. His user name was u/kickme444. He said he was offered severance, and was not told that he couldn’t talk about it. But he isn’t saying much, because he said it’s all just too painful for him and his family. If you want to keep up with him, he’s on Twitter here.
Ex-Reddit Employee Talks About Being Fired
Another ex-employee for Reddit started an AMA in which he shared that he was fired for having cancer. (Keep in mind, of course, that there are two sides to every story and we’re only hearing one side here.) User Dacvak, working as a Reddit community manager, shared in the AMA (since deleted) that he was supposed to move to San Francisco in 2012, along with most of Reddit, but he was diagnosed with leukemia. He was in the hospital for the next seven months, and eventually went into remission and resumed working for Reddit. A year later, his leukemia returned before he could move to San Francisco. In February 2015 he was fired for being too sick to fulfill his duties, although he says this was NOT true and he could fulfill his duties. (More details in this thread.) He says that in lieu of severance pay he accepted one year of COBRA coverage. The AMA thread has since been deleted, reportedly by the user himself. However, you can view the web cache here.
Ellen Pao, Interim CEO of Reddit, Comes Under FireThe #Reddit CEO addressed the controversy in a New York Times article. Click To Tweet
All the controversy centers around Ellen Pao, the interim CEO of Reddit. Redditors are already calling for her to dismissed. In fact, a petition asking her to step down currently has more than 94,499 signatures and is growing. However, we have to keep this in perspective. Reddit has more than 160 million visitors a month and had 3.5 million logged in users. So 90k+ signatures is a minority, albeit a very vocal one. You also have to consider, on the flip side, how many users are duplicated accounts, how many visitors are just lurkers, etc. What percentage of active users who contribute content comprise the 80,000 signatures? That would be an important question, in my opinion.
The New York Times reported on the story, interviewing Pao for her response. She said a team of employees will work with the AMA subreddit and they won’t be left in the lurch. In the article, she said the most outspoken detractors were a “vocal minority” and most Redditors weren’t interested in this controversy. She said she had no plans to resign, found her job exciting, and most Redditors are thoughtful and understand their decisions even if they disagree with them. Meanwhile, the co-founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian, told the New York Times in the same article that he realized they hadn’t done a good job of communicating and they would make changes on that.
No Reddit Day?
I don’t know if this one will happen, but July 10 is being suggested as a “No Reddit Day” on some forums. This is being organized under the subreddit “JustSayNope” (which currently only has a little over 3,000 subscribers.) You can also learn more at the subreddit Blackout2015, which has over 38,000 subscribers currently.
PR BlunderThis #Reddit controversy is an example of what not to do in PR. Here's why. Click To Tweet
One of my takeaways from this whole mess is that Reddit didn’t handle the PR side very well. A good PR strategist works proactively rather than reactively, understanding how important an employee might be to a company’s health. Rather than just firing someone under the table, he or she should figure out what projects they are working on, who will be affected, and communicate with those affected ahead of time so no one feels slighted or unappreciated — this includes communicating with volunteers when your company depends on them so heavily.
The wrong thing to do is point fingers or try to be dismissive of complaints, referring to them as “vocal minorities” or saying that most people don’t share those same concerns. When your site’s customers are the readers, the old adage “the customer is always right” still applies. Dismissing complaints can, in many instances, only serve to fan the flames of the fire. Instead, admit a mistake that you might have made and state what you’ve learned from the situation. In my opinion, co-founder Ohanian’s response was better suited for the situation than Pao’s.
Want an example of how Pao’s “vocal minority” statement fanned the flames? In this thread, where Reddit links to the NYT article, one user links to the petition and states: “I think Ms. Pao just called us an insignificant vocal minority.” Another Redditor responds that they should go a step further and start contacting advertisers. Other users are upset that she talked to The New York Times before addressing the user base.Listen to your customers and address them directly, not through news quotes. #Reddit #Blackout2015 Click To Tweet
This is an example of what not to do. Don’t dismiss complaints from your customers as unimportant. It is very possible the “vocal minority” could also represent people who aren’t speaking but feel the same. Find ways to reach out and address the concerns. Talk to them directly rather than indirectly through news articles. PR with your customers is just as vital as PR with the outside world. Do you agree?
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