Friday, June 19, 2015

An ideal Reddit replacement

As Reddit circles the drain, many of us are wondering if the nature of Reddit itself led to its downfall. It allows only one subreddit per keyword, and those are controlled by mods who invariably negotiate with that power. Its upvote/downvote system guarantees abuse and brigading. Clearly a better system is needed. Is there a way around these problems?

I came up with a quick series of ideas on how to do this. These are not fully-fleshed, but they cannot be until the other elements of the new system are clear. Here is my basic approach however:

  • Reputation vouchers. One huge problem on Reddit is the high frequency of throwaway accounts. These encourage users to not worry too much about their behavior, since there is no point to retaining any particular account. In a reputation system, each user must be vouched for by an established user. This would enable them to be given votes of more power and allows the community to reward actual contributors instead of mere participants. This distinction is at the heart of this system: 90% of people are only participants, meaning they show up and do what is expected. 10% of the user community rises above and deserves an increased caste status to reward that beneficial, above the call of duty participation.
  • Tags not subs. Reddit faces a difficult task because if people are interested in animals, there can be only one /r/animals and it will be controlled by one group of mods, which naturally leads them to treat that as a property which they use as a bargaining chip with others. This in turn encourages defensive behavior and makes mods into little tyrants. Tags are better because they allow for content to focus on the topic, not the topic as envisioned by the mods. In this stream, or the list of articles produced, content from vouched users would come first, allowing that status to take the place of mod-status without the abuse tendencies therein.
  • Personal news. To take the place of mods who curate an independent community by keeping content orderly, non-duplicative and on-content, users would be able to create news streams of articles they have "liked" (equivalent to Reddit's "save"). One of the biggest problems on Reddit, and in any tag stream, is the presence of duplicate articles including links on the same topic from multiple sources. This would enable users to go through and produce personal streams which, unlike subs with mods, would be entirely associated with the user by design and eliminate any pretense of objectivity.
  • Streams. Streams are like a Facebook timeline or Twitter flow. They consist of articles coming up in the order of number of votes balanced by newness. Streams can take any form: groups of tags, friends of the user, their personal stream described above, or a combination of the above. Users could make these public so that people get what is actually the point of the site, which is the best content available, and compete against each other for those to produce the best stream.

While the days grow short for Reddit, much as they did with Digg and Myspace, users are looking for the next incarnation of this form of social media software. Reddit was basically an extension of Del.icio.us with Digg's Fark-style upvoting, and maybe something like the above can be the next level.

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