Reply to Jimmy Ruska's "reddit has flaws"

by Will Chen on 6 April 2007 comments

JimmyR is one of my favorites websites, and I generally agree with the author's views. But I respectfully disagree with his latest criticism of reddit.

Jimmy: You Can't Submit An Article Again

as the article cannot be resubmitted unless it is deleted by the original poster.

You can easily submit an article again. (e.g. the XKCD saga.)

Jimmy: There is Incentive To Vote People Down

Jimmy argues that spammers vote down other new stories to make their own spam rise up faster. However, this is not a flaw specific to reddit. This is a universal flaw of social bookmarking websites.

I've seen every post on the new section having a score of 0 before.

The new section doesn't display scores of the newest submissions. Instead of a score, you will see "posted 6 minutes ago by raldi." You can theoretically go into the details section to check the score, but I doubt anyone actually does that for every post. Personally, I've never seen the new section populated completely with 0 point articles.

Jimmy: There is No Penalty for Voting Down

people can vote down every post on the NEW list, and as an added bonus, piss someone off and they can vote down everything you've ever submitted by clicking on your profile.

Again, this is a universal flaw of almost any voting system. And if you piss one person off, so what? What is one negative vote on all your stories? If a story submission can get sunk by just one negative vote, then that story probably wasn't doing that great to begin with.

And if you piss off a whole lot of people who end up revenge voting against you, that's actually a good thing. That's a self-policing mechanism I actually like. I think mass revenge voting is how we ended Ask Reddit polling.

Jimmy: People Can Anonymously Punish You

Jimmy complains that if you piss someone off they can quietly assasinate your previous posts with negative votes. He has a fair point. This can be considered a "reddit-specifc" flaw because voting isn't anonymous on Netscape or Digg.

It is true that people are less careful about their votes when they don't have to justify it. On the other hand, I believe anonymous voting is one of the reasons why reddit has much more interesting stories than Digg.

If I know my user name is going to be attached to a certain vote, I might be a little embarrassed about geeking out over a certain obscure math problem post. Anonymity is an important part of the democratic process. That's why real world voting booths are not made of glass.

Jimmy: Problematic Statistics

I cannot remember the last time I saw an obvious spam article show up on reddit's top 25. If the spammes are truly ruining reddit, then why isn't viagra-rules@blogspot.com the number one story?

2 or 3 anonymous people decided the fate of your article, and they decided it sucks, so that is final verdict on Reddit

This statement ignores the "friends" and "recommended" features. These features mean that my submissions will be read by people who have liked my story before, so it doesn't matter what the intial 2-3 votes are.

Jimmy: Netscape Top 10 Is Almost The same as Reddit Top 10

I think this is true for certain breaking world news or political items. But quirky stories have a much better chance of making it big on reddit than on any other website.

I don't have the data to back this up, but generally I feel stories come from reddit to Netscape instead of the other way around. reddit's submission procedure is so simple a caveman can do it. Netscape, however, puts you through a three-minute grill-a-thon before allowing you to submit a story. All other things being equal, it is much more likely that people will submit the latest stuff to reddit first than the other way around.

(Note: but not all things are equal. Netscape has more users, which means it might get more submissions. However, reddit doesn't have categories, which may encourage more diverse submissions.)

Jimmy: People Embed Videos on Their Site and Take Credit

Not a reddit-specific problem. Also, linkjackers are often punished by the anonymous lynch mob that Jimmy criticized earlier.

Jimmy: Reddit Leans Left & Atheists Rule

That is a fair assessment to a certain extent.

But I would like to point out that:

  • reddit users are very counter-establishment, so if the Democrats are in full power we might see a lot of backlash against them too.
  • Libertarian publications like Reason do get props on reddit.
  • A lot of the criticism against religion is focused on religious fanaticism and not religious faith itself.

Jimmy: Digg vs. Reddit

Digg is not perfect, but at the same time there shouldn't be all that much voting ratios on good material. Equal opportunity? Hardly. For example my article "Complete List of Google Video Categories" got 2700+ diggs. How many did it get on Reddit? A wonderful -3 score. I did get lucky with my Free Education Online Article which did better than Digg but even then 15% voted my article down.

But if you got the same score on reddit as you did on Digg, wouldn't that give the two sites the same top stories? By the way, that Free Education Online Article is really good. Everyone should check it out.

Jimmy: Karma Doesn't Matter

I agree completely with Jimmy here. reddit would be much better if the stats page goes down.

Jimmy: Writers Vs. Readers

In Reddit, the "merchants" or bloggers have the incentive to post their site and have all the other sites do badly

Actually, if a user did nothing but submit his own blog posts and make no contributions to reddit, most of his stories will be ignored. If he does it too much, other users will report him as a spammer.

The savvy bloggers will use reddit sparingly. They will put in the time to become good reddit citizens and submit thousands of wonderful stories completely related to their own blogs. By doing this, they get their names added to people's friends lists. Then, when the savvy blogger writes a good post he likes to share, hist submission will be taken seriously because other users have recognized him as a valuable contributor.

By the way, reddit ban spammers all the time. The reddit team is very smart about this. They usually don't tell people that their domain has been spammed. They allow the submission but just don't have it show up in the new page.

The comparison to democracy is incorrect because democracy allows all ideas, whether it's Mormons or even Nazis, we respect people's believes as long as they don't harm physically others.

In our democracy, a Nazi has the Constitutional right to meet with other Nazis, publish their own newspapers, and run for office. But no where is it guaranteed that when a Nazi writes an aritlce that the New York Times or reddit or anyone has to publish it or read it.

Without a good chunk of people rating a large majority of quality articles are discredited by a small minority.

I agree with this. reddit, like any other voting system, can be improved by better voter participation.

P.S. I want to thank Jimmy for creating his awesome aggregator.  It looks very similar to my company's internal intranet "how to" page, so I can surf it for hours without getting caught.  =)  

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