Following a day-long blackout, Reddit’s Ask Me Anything /r/IAmA subreddit is back online. But in the same post it used to welcome back users, it also stuck two fingers in the general direction of Reddit’s management.
In case you haven’t been following the Reddit drama, here’s the short version: Reddit’s Director of Communications and all-round popular person Victoria Taylor was let go for reasons unknown. This angered the moderators of /r/IAmA, who made their subreddit private, effectively taking it offline. The mods of other popular subs followed suit, and by this morning the front page of Reddit was a barren wasteland of cat pics and in-jokes.
A few minutes ago, /r/IAmA went public again, and the mods posted a welcome-back statement, at the bottom of which was this:
As a result, we will no longer be working with the admins to put together AMAs. Anyone seeking to schedule an AMA can simply message the moderators or email us at [email protected] , and we’d be happy to assist and help prepare them for the AMA in any way. We will also be making some future changes to our requirements to cope with Victoria’s absence. Most of these will be behind-the-scenes tweaks to how we help arrange AMAs beforehand, but if there are any rule changes we will let you all know in a sticky post.
AMAs are a big deal for Reddit: they pull big-name figures into the site, and provide the self-titled ‘front page of the internet’ a great deal of general interest. By posting the statement above, the moderators are trying to cut Reddit’s management out of the loop on some of the site’s most important operations.
Whether other subreddits follow /r/IAmA’s lead and revert back to public remains to be seen, but either way, the stage is being set for a showdown between Reddit management, and its volunteer community administrators.
Reddit’s management has said very little on the matter yet, apart from the following statement from CEO Ellen Pao:
The bigger problem is that we haven’t helped our moderators with better support after many years of promising to do so. We do value moderators; they allow reddit to function and they allow each subreddit to be unique and to appeal to different communities. This year, we have started building better tools for moderators and for admins to help keep subreddits and reddit awesome, but our infrastructure is monolithic, and it is going to take some time. We hired someone to product manage it, and we moved an engineer to help work on it. We hired 5 more people for our community team in total to work with both the community and moderators. We are also making changes to reddit.com, adding new features like better search and building mobile web, but our testing plan needs improvement. As a result, we are breaking some of the ways moderators moderate. We are going to figure this out and fix it.
For years, Reddit has steadfastly avoided meddling with day-to-day operations on the site, leaving it to the volunteer mods. Recent moves by administrators to ban offensive subreddits have thrown the site into disagreement with its community; this time around, we might see an all-out showdown between the people who pay for the site, and those holding the reins of popular support. Control over the internet’s supply of cat GIFs hangs in the balance.