Reddit: The Power of the Upvote

Reddit.com is the self proclaimed “front page of the internet”, using “upvotes” to rank and display user-submitted links.

Reddit

Paraphrased from Wikipedia: Reddit

The site is a collection of entries submitted by its registered users, essentially a bulletin board, split into numerous categories, known as “subreddits”.

When items (links or text posts) are submitted to the site, redditors (users) can vote for or against them (upvote/downvote). Each subreddit has a front page that displays items ranked by the age of the submission, positive (“upvoted”) to negative (“downvoted”) feedback ratio and the total vote count.

Redditors can also post comments about the submission, and respond back and forth in a conversation tree of comments; the comments themselves can also be upvoted and downvoted.

The front page of the site itself shows a combination of the highest rated posts out of all the subreddits a user is subscribed to.

Two important things are going on here:

reddit-alienUser Submission

The content of the front page is user submitted, though not always user created. Users submit to the Reddit community something that they believe others might be interested in.

upvoteUpvoting

Submitted content is up/downvoted by users, causing the proverbial “cream” to rise to the top.

Relevance to Digital Humanities:

The Good

User-submitted items and comments provide a collaborative means of organizing information.

One subreddit, /r/explainlikeimfive, uses the power of the upvote to provide simple answers to user-submitted questions in language a 5 year old can understand. The best answers are upvoted to the top of the comments section, allowing the user to obtain the best answer to their question as voted on by other users.

News related subreddits, like /r/worldnews, benefit from user submission to provide coverage of multiple angles of news events. Coverage of an event often includes user-submitted pictures and videos, links to the story as covered by major online news outlets, and AMA’s (Ask Me Anything) from people on the scene.

The Bad

The tendency for popular points of view, both in the form of submissions and comments, to be upvoted while unpopular points of view are down-voted, leads to a phenomena on Reddit refereed to as “circle-jerking”, where popular opinions tend to get reinforced through a feedback loop stemming from a confirmation bias that leads users who hold the majority opinion to out-submit and out-vote minority opinion holders.

The result is that on controversial topics where the majority opinion holds only a slight edge over the minority opinion, the minority opinion is vastly underrepresented in the front page of the feed.

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