After rolling out a new social profile feature to a whopping three users back in March, Reddit finally opened up a limited beta version to a select (significantly larger) group of users last week. It took exactly five days for them to ruin it. Great going, everyone!
Image: Wayback machine
Since its creation, Reddit has always been a network of communities. The individual users carry far less weight than the health of the subreddits they contribute to. Starting today, Reddit is debuting a feature that might turn that decade-long ethos on its head.
As Gizmodo wrote when the feature first went live (starting with Reddit CEO Alexis Ohanian, power user Hector Janse van Rensburg, and some weird branded page for League of Legends), these more robust profile pages looked a lot like Reddit dipping a toe into social features that would value individual users at the same level as communities. Rather than post links, text or images to specific communities, some Reddit users can now post to their own profiles, and those profiles can be followed by others as though they were communities. But profile pages, as on any other social network, are run by the person who creates them, not by an external moderation team.
The site's automated message even informs beta testers, "you've just become a moderator of your own profile. Congrats!" Does that seem like a questionable decision for a website that has consistently had trouble defining and enforcing its rules? Lets see.
To help users discover new profiles to follow, Reddit built a page that would display all profile posts made by those in the invite-only beta: r/ProfilePosts. As was immediately obvious, this effectively made ProfilePosts an unmoderated subreddit.
In the five days it existed, ProfilePosts was cluttered with spam, vitriol against the site's leadership, and general hatred of the profile features. Some users saw the feature as the Facebookification of Reddit and whinged, rather than opting not to use it. Others exploited an easy opportunity to be a complete dickhead.
"Fuck off with the profiles," one of the top-voted posts read (clicking through revealed the post's body as, "This is fucking stupid"). "Reddit profiles are ass," read another. In short, besides being rude, these were the sort of low-effort posts generally discouraged on Reddit, and forums in general.
Image: Wayback machine
As of yesterday, the page is empty and isn't likely to return. Strangely, part of the "privacy and safety" settings for beta testers still lists r/ProfilePosts as a place where self-posts will be aggregated to.
Reddit was not immediately available to explain what happened or how the site intends to proceed with the rollout.