Why does it matter that you're female?
December 19, 2014 1:18 PM   Subscribe

3 female computer scientists held a Reddit AMA. You can totally guess what happened next.
posted by bq (138 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sigh. Lewis's Law.
posted by Librarypt at 1:29 PM on December 19, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'm sure trolls were trolls, but what got voted up seems to be pretty good questions to me.
posted by smackfu at 1:29 PM on December 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


Though we were surprised by the sheer amount of sexist and undermining comments,

That is pretty horrible, but I'm not surprised by that any more. The internet is like having a house party where everyone in the world is invited, and you advertise free refreshments. Undesireables will show up. Reddit seems to be a special kind of magnet for this.

At that point, it's about bouncers/moderators to control traffic in certain locations. I'm more surprised that AMA, which is a carefully cultivated property on reddit, allows that kind of stuff to remain such that it actively tarnishes what they are trying to do. Plenty of subreddits have moderation policies that sift manually the wheat from the chaff, rather than relying only on the voting system, to keep things from becoming a cesspool.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:30 PM on December 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'll note that if you sort the comments by 'best' instead of 'top', you end up with way fewer responses questioning the gender angle. On Reddit, 'top' tends to be the knee-jerk jokey/jerky teenage boy style responses.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:30 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


I had guessed "probably a lot of jerks and assholes but ultimately some consciousness-raising and a slow microscopic step forward for both men who aren't allies but also aren't assholes to improve their awareness, and for women in STEM who found people with whom they could identify, and women considering STEM getting a clear idea of the challenges involved in an inherently sexist system but also being heartened by the fact that there are future mentors and peers blazing a trail for them"

so yes, I totally guessed what happened next.
posted by Shepherd at 1:31 PM on December 19, 2014 [27 favorites]


There are inappropriate questions and trolls in almost every single Reddit AMA. After reading the AMA in question I think the article misrepresents the actual tone of the conversation.
posted by humanfont at 1:34 PM on December 19, 2014 [17 favorites]


After all the creepshots stuff that went on I figured more people would be avoiding Reddit. People will write comments and articles about how terrible it is and how the owners/admins are doing nothing and therefore contributing to that behaviour, etc. And then it's "Hey everyone, this celebrity is doing an AMA!"
posted by ODiV at 1:41 PM on December 19, 2014 [17 favorites]


There are inappropriate questions and trolls in almost every single Reddit AMA. After reading the AMA in question I think the article misrepresents the actual tone of the conversation.


Go ahead and sort by "Controversial", and wade through the dozens and dozens of "Why did you say you were female?" comments. Now imagine you're trying to answer the serious questions in somewhat real time, all the while your little inbox keeps filling up with "Why did you say you were female?" interspersed with "Go make me a sandwich" and "Tits or GTFO" with the occasional well-thought out question about your research and your experiences as a woman in the field.

We get to see the nice, cleaned up version of the conversation; they didn't.
posted by damayanti at 1:42 PM on December 19, 2014 [117 favorites]


humanfont: “After reading the AMA in question I think the article misrepresents the actual tone of the conversation.”

Nah, I don't think it misrepresents the tone of "the conversation" at all. Reddit threads are not a record of a conversation in any way. Threaded conversation allows for much more drastic after-the-fact reshaping of the direction comments take, since single threads can pretty easily be nuked from orbit. Even though we have a pretty rigorous moderation culture and a hard-working staff here at Metafilter, it's a lot harder to peel off a thread and kill it, and it usually involves either deleting the comment right when it appears or deleting a bunch of innocent responses just as a matter of course.

Reddit threads regularly get trimmed back and reworked. This article was published more than six hours ago. The moment it appeared, I'm sure the moderation team went into overdrive getting rid of crap to reduce poor visibility. There is also a pretty obvious aftereffect of progressivism on Reddit - immediate responses are often sexist or racist, but after some time sexism and racism get downvoted.

During a conversation, unless they're spectacularly popular, an AMA person doesn't really have the luxury of waiting days to see what good stuff rises to the top. They're responding to questions as they come in, and the shit comes in with the good stuff with no distinguishing markers. At this point, the shit has been deleted or downvoted; when this AMA was live, it was right there alongside the respectful questions.

I have no doubt that the conversation was exactly as the computer scientists here describe it.
posted by koeselitz at 1:43 PM on December 19, 2014 [49 favorites]


humanfont: "There are inappropriate questions and trolls in almost every single Reddit AMA. "

I am hell of getting tired of "everybody poops in the punch!" being the price of interacting with people on the internet.
posted by boo_radley at 1:44 PM on December 19, 2014 [137 favorites]


There are inappropriate questions and trolls in almost every single Reddit AMA. After reading the AMA in question I think the article misrepresents the actual tone of the conversation.

I read through it too, and to find the comments in question, I had to really go digging. It had some really good stuff on the top, actually. Anything that was negative was downvoted to oblivion such that it wasn't even visible anymore, unless you specifically clicked on the comment to open it up.

I imagine what sucks, though, is when you are doing it live, and the questions like that start coming in. We have the benefit of seeing it cleaned up a bit. If it's live, it's the equivalent of having people yell in your face and then being escorted out over time. I imagine that is pretty jarring, and always unfortunate.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:46 PM on December 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


Shouldn't the responders in an AMA wait a bit for the cream to rise to the top?
posted by smackfu at 1:47 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thing is, you get comments that aren't questions removed from an AMA, so the "Make me a sandwich" shouldn't have survived. When Dan Eldon's mom did an AMA I wrote that I admired her son, and that was removed (since it wasn't a question).

This said, it's almost like these women had no previous reddit experience. One's been on for 16 days. One three months. Maybe, just maybe, /u/ilar769 should have warned the other two?

I am hell of getting tired of "everybody poops in the punch!" being the price of interacting with people on the internet.

Sure, so then maybe a site dedicated to poop punch isn't for you?
posted by cjorgensen at 1:47 PM on December 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


Anything that was negative was downvoted to oblivion such that it wasn't even visible anymore, unless you specifically clicked on the comment to open it up.

Okay, so points to the Reddit hivemind, at least. Although I'm sure that didn't make it any more fun to deal with live.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:48 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


Shouldn't the responders in an AMA wait a bit for the cream to rise to the top?

Nah, then people start whining about you not replying, and i can almost guarantee on reddit you'd get more than average whining just by doing that and being a woman at the same time.
posted by emptythought at 1:49 PM on December 19, 2014 [7 favorites]


Shouldn't the responders in an AMA wait a bit for the cream to rise to the top?

The guidelines recommend waiting 15-30 minutes for questions to populate and gather some votes. For a big AMA this is more than enough time for the popular questions to rise to the top (IAMA has 7 million readers).

So the authors will be able to focus on the good questions, but everything shows up in their inbox if they look for unread comments.
posted by justkevin at 1:51 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is how wars are fought, no need need for the defeatist tone in the title here. At the end of the day the bad apples got downvoted and the actually interesting questions got upvoted. Some kudos is in order for the IAMA moderators for doing their best here.

I'm sure some of the MRAers in the AMA will call this a conspiracy and won't learn a thing, but maybe a few of the people who got downvoted / had comments removed from the discussion will look at the productive questions that were asked and use that as a chance to grow.
posted by sp160n at 1:53 PM on December 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


humanfont: "There are inappropriate questions and trolls in almost every single Reddit AMA.

And yet these seem especially gendered. So it's not just "hey, somebody said something shitty," it's, "Hey, women have to live in a constant toxic vat of sexism that relentlessly undermines them simply for their gender, regardless of their profession or accomplishment."

If that's the price for playing on Reddit, maybe nobody should play on Reddit, but especially not women. They shouldn't just have to expect that the web was built and populated by Victorian-era men who simply cannot abide by a culture in which women are not relentlessly reminded that they are made from man's rib.
posted by maxsparber at 1:55 PM on December 19, 2014 [45 favorites]


(Is the Wired site shitting the bed and not serving CSS to everyone or just me?)
posted by mathowie at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


The comments here feel very dismissive to me, of the "This is how the internet works, get over it" variety that ignores the reported experience of the women in question. "Shouldn't the responders in an AMA wait a bit for the cream to rise to the top?" implies the scientists were just doing it wrong. In any case, even if they did wait for "the cream to rise", all of the sexist comments would still have been posted.

At the end of the day the bad apples got downvoted and the actually interesting questions got upvoted.

Yes but the article is not about the end of the day, it is about the process of the AMA as it happened, and these scientists had to dodge the bad apples during that process.
posted by Librarypt at 1:58 PM on December 19, 2014 [31 favorites]


(Is the Wired site shitting the bed and not serving CSS to everyone or just me?)'

It is broken for me too.
posted by aubilenon at 2:01 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


cjorgensen: "Sure, so then maybe a site dedicated to poop punch isn't for you?"

Reddit says it's "the front page of the internet", so maybe I should have used dumpsacking as a metaphor here??? Not sure.
posted by boo_radley at 2:04 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


Shouldn't the responders in an AMA wait a bit for the cream to rise to the top?

I think this is a good idea in theory, smackfu, but sometimes AMA folks don't want to wait until the crap gets downvoted to start responding. I remember viewing the AMA a couple hours after it went up and saw at least three "but feeeeemale?" questions in the top 10.

I thought their responses to the trashy questions were great, though.

There are inappropriate questions and trolls in almost every single Reddit AMA. After reading the AMA in question I think the article misrepresents the actual tone of the conversation.

Fair enough! Though I'd caution that any reading of the thread made now doesn't capture the thread as it existed last week. I'm going to trust their account of the thread's tone since they were there from the beginning.
posted by Avarith at 2:16 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I am hell of getting tired of "everybody poops in the punch!" being the price of interacting with people on the internet."

See, you're an obviously a half-empty sort of dude... For me, I'm always pretty happy when someone puts a couple of cups of punch in the poop bowl.
posted by el io at 2:17 PM on December 19, 2014 [31 favorites]


The AMA as its stands now is well worth a read, if you sort by "Best" (the default view). Despite the unsurprising flood of terrible comments, the questions that rose to the top were pretty interesting and they answered very thoughtfully.

(Is the Wired site shitting the bed and not serving CSS to everyone or just me?)
Me too. Still readable though, if you scroll down past all the weird, mis-sized images.
posted by metaBugs at 2:20 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Can't they just ban the trolls? I don't understand how sites get these repeated offenders on this sort of thing. If you sledgehammer the people who behave like that, eventually you'll run out of offenders, and people will stop.
posted by Slinga at 2:26 PM on December 19, 2014


Slinga: Just get rid of the assholes, eh? A whitelist approach would probably be easier done than a blacklist. Also, would destroy their business model.
posted by el io at 2:28 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


Can't they just ban the trolls? I don't understand how sites get these repeated offenders on this sort of thing. If you sledgehammer the people who behave like that, eventually you'll run out of offenders, and people will stop.

People flip out on this site when someone gets a COMMENT deleted, never mind a person. What makes you think that the far-more lenient Reddit would ban those guys, or even consider them to be trolls to begin with?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:29 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


Can't they just ban the trolls? I don't understand how sites get these repeated offenders on this sort of thing. If you sledgehammer the people who behave like that, eventually you'll run out of offenders, and people will stop.
posted by Slinga at 5:26 PM


On a site with no $5 signup fee, what exactly is the friction to just creating a new account? And to head off the obvious counter-argument at the pass: if their IP gets banned, there's a functionally infinite number of proxies, TOR exit nodes, and session-specific addresses handed out for mobile web-browsing. If you want the world to have write-access to your site, you're also essentially handcuffing your moderators to spot-fixes and well-after-the-event cleanup.

The simple fact of the matter is that what's desired here is censorship - good-willed censorship toward an atmosphere of mutual respect and basic civility, absolutely, but that doesn't change the fact that it is working directly counter to the entire design of the Internet: functional communication even after a mid-level nuclear exchange. Could they be doing better? Probably. But what is actually feasible for any site of limited resources (even Google with Youtube) is almost always far short of ideal.
posted by Ryvar at 2:39 PM on December 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am hell of getting tired of "everybody poops in the punch!" being the price of interacting with people on the internet.

Agreed, cosigned, this 1000%.

Deeply tired of the excuse "what do you expect? it's the internet!" Sounds an awful lot like "boys will be boys" and fuck that noise up and down. I'm tired of being patient with ain't-shit privileged people who are scared of the future. Of the present. There are dudes in my hometown who are still mad about Title IX for god's sake. Whether or not women should be able to fully take part in professional and political life is not a debate with a "both sides" that need to be heard out. There is the notion of the United States living up to its ideals and there are dumbfuck regressives that don't want to see that happen.

I believe that our expectation and acceptance of the internet being awful contributes in large part to the internet being awful. I want the swamp drained, I want every corner of the country to understand that behavior of this sort is embarrassing and unacceptable. I want misogynist backlash culture to be tagged with the appropriate level of backwardness - thought which is akin to prescribing leeches as medicine. In short, a concept that has no home in the twenty-first century. Men should be too ashamed of these cowardly reflexes to even indulge them internally, much less voice them publicly.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:40 PM on December 19, 2014 [65 favorites]


Hey Internet, the Jerk Store called and they're not out of you.
posted by tommasz at 2:44 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Some other examples of recent contentious AMAs: I'm Zoe Quinn - Ask Me (almost) Anything! (trolls aggressively deleted) and IamA the owner of Beauty Town Plus, located in Ferguson, MO. We were looted three times then our store burned down last week AMA. What's so awful about this computer science AMA, and Zoe, is that the only "contentious" thing is that they are women. Not all men are monsters, but some sure are.

Reddit has its problems, but I think the voting system by and large mostly works. OTOH I'd sure hate to be a moderator or have to read unfiltered posts there. All systems that allow cheap anonymous accounts have a very hard time keeping trolls out entirely. I think the Reddit voting system with occasional manual moderation is a pretty good solution. I don't know of a better one at least.

Metafilter works by having a $5 barrier to entry plus very close manual moderation.
posted by Nelson at 2:45 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


"There are dudes in my hometown who are still mad about Title IX for god's sake."

I'm betting that's because Title IX 'took money away' from their beloved football. Honestly if 2% of a football budget was reduced to feed starving war veterans most small-town fans would have a shit-fit.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure your hometown has it's fill of asshat misogynists, but my memory of people being upset at Title IX was all about the football (and being upset that there was now a women's basketball team, or whatever, instead of new helmets to reduce brain injury by .2%).
posted by el io at 2:47 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


So... all of Wired is kind of screwed up right now. Oh, Ben, what did you do?
posted by Going To Maine at 2:53 PM on December 19, 2014


"... Title IX 'took money away' from their beloved football."

Yup, you'll hear that when they grumble all right. And as we all know, now all college football programs have gone utterly fallow coast to coast because those darn feminazis Go Too Far and Just Want Attention and have to make Everything About Gender. As if the manbaby who screams about girls in the clubhouse isn't making everything about gender. As if the sort of attention you get for not apologizing for being a woman is the sort of attention anyone wants.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:58 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wired site is still borked for me.
posted by Mister_A at 3:01 PM on December 19, 2014


I feel so very dumb right now. I never quite understood why sexism on Reddit bothered people so much cos whenever I checked, the troll posts were buried/downvoted anyway.

damayanti, koeselitz etc.. thanks for pointing it out even though it must have been painfully obvious to you. People like me could use that extra help.
posted by savitarka at 3:09 PM on December 19, 2014 [11 favorites]


By ignoring what the women said and did on the thread and the great questions asked to drive a story about the actions of trolling shitheads, you have helped the trolling shitheads win. The women's message, the good questions and answers and generally positive discussion are all obliterated from the public conversation. The women are made to stfu while we listen to episode one million of look at these shitty people over there saying something shitty. Oh I'm sorry dear were you saying something important and positive about your success as a woman in STEM I wasn't paying attention to you. I was too concerned about how those hateful words might make you wilt like a delicate flower.
posted by humanfont at 3:10 PM on December 19, 2014 [10 favorites]


I realize the wired site is borked right now but the article that I read earlier, which I think is the same one - complaining about the shitty comments while praising the good ones - was written BY THE WOMEN THEMSELVES so okay yeah whatever.
posted by misskaz at 3:14 PM on December 19, 2014 [15 favorites]


Deeply tired of the excuse "what do you expect? it's the internet!" Sounds an awful lot like "boys will be boys" and fuck that noise up and down.

Except it's not the internet. It's one site on the internet that is generally looked at as a cesspool of civility. Being upset about how it's run is an indication perhaps the site isn't where you want to be spending your time. It's a bit like being made that Fark is mean or 4chan is immature and irresponsible.

Pople not on reddit have a love/hate relationship with reddit. They want the attention and they want the traffic, but they don't want to deal with the complexities of the site. Reddit is a modern usenet in that you get what you sign up for. I spend almost all my time there on /r/sysadmin /r/mac and /r/apple. They are mostly civilized. Pop over to the MRA subs or the /r/popping or /r/wtf or any of the other subs that are in need of eye bleach and you get the expected. I've seen enough AMAs go wrong that I would think anyone going in there shouldn't be surprised at the treatment. The Morgan Freeman one should have been warning enough.

I'm not defending the behavior, but as the first several comments in this thread pointed out, the reaction is predictable and unsurprising.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:15 PM on December 19, 2014


I am hell of getting tired of "everybody poops in the punch!" being the price of interacting with people on the internet.

Honestly I've never seen any quasi-anonymous online forum be free from the trolls without heavy moderation or paywalls (like MF here). Anonymity invites the trolls.

Also you can't at the same time damn an AMA and reddit as a whole, while at the same time invalidating its key moderation feature. That is part of the medium! Sure, the AMAs happen in realtime, so maybe reddit isn't the best forum for a completely troll-free live Q&A, but in general reddit's topical segregation and bubbling of upvoted comments works very well over time. As posts on reddit age, they get better, because comments are moderated by the users. Bad comments get downvoted; good comments and their threads bubble to the top. As anonymous discussion forums go, it's hard to find models that yield better results at traffic/audience volume within an order of magnitude or so.
posted by scelerat at 3:21 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


By ignoring what the women said and did on the thread and the great questions asked to drive a story about the actions of trolling shitheads, you have helped the trolling shitheads win

If we cannot discuss sexism after it happens, they have already won.
posted by maxsparber at 3:25 PM on December 19, 2014 [28 favorites]


The women's message, the good questions and answers and generally positive discussion are all obliterated from the public conversation. The women are made to stfu while we listen to episode one million of look at these shitty people over there saying something shitty

Did you not realize that this article was written by the women themselves? They are the ones who want us to be aware of the challenges they faced in trying to reach a wider audience-- far from stfu-ing they are sharing their experience because it's important to them.
posted by bookish at 3:29 PM on December 19, 2014 [49 favorites]


Also, AMA stands for "Ask Me Anything." It's not "Ask Me Questions Related To My Field Or Area Of Study" or "Ask Me Anything in a Non-Bigoted Way." I think many users of reddit view these as roasts and they are generally on their worst behavior in these sorts of things (see the President's AMA as proof).

On a lark I popped into /r/feminism to see what kind of horrible commentary the redditors would be engaging in there, and I couldn't find anything that would upset anyone's sensibilities (unless you are an Ann Coulter fan I suppose). Problem is, that seems to be an incredibly low traffic sub. Most articles have zero comments (but again, the ones that do seem reasonable).

So just like I bristle when I read comments on metafilter that implies metafilter thinks in a particular manner with a particular world view, I bristle at the idea of people pointing at reddit as though it's some singular entity with a problem. It's legion and each sub has its own culture and rules.

I guess I see this like going to a Lisa Lampanelli show and getting mad she's impolite. Don't like it? There are plenty of other options out there.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:33 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


> I am hell of getting tired of "everybody poops in the punch!" being the price of interacting with people on the internet.....

> I'm not defending the behavior, but as the first several comments in this thread pointed out, the reaction is predictable and unsurprising.


Which is pretty much exactly the problem, see.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:37 PM on December 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


The information regarding a glaring oversight on my part changes my perspective. I'm going to go do some shots.
posted by humanfont at 3:42 PM on December 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm not defending the behavior, but as the first several comments in this thread pointed out, the reaction is predictable and unsurprising.

Except it's not predictable. I mean, you start out by saying it's a cesspool and nobody should expect any sort of civilized behavior and then you do a 180 flip and say the subreddits you visit are "mostly civilized". So, which is it? If it's always predictably shitty, does that mean the places that you visit are an aberration in Reddit and their method of moderating and social guidelines cannot be copied? If it's not an aberration, then why can't they be copied to other subreddits?

When the topic of Reddit comes up, there's always people that defend certain subreddits or say that "Reddit is not X", but then when something bad happens everything flips and the saying goes, "Well Reddit is X, so what did you expect?" and "X" being racist, sexist, misogynist, transphobic, etc. And I don't know what to call it, maybe ambiguity or maybe even an equivocation. Because even if you say you aren't defending the behavior itself, you are at the very least creating a self-fulfilling prophecy when something bad happens next time.
posted by FJT at 3:52 PM on December 19, 2014 [21 favorites]


Sure, it's predictable, and sure, reddit has some very well-known problems. But that doesn't mean that it's not worth talking about how these deluges of negativity affect women and minorities that try to make themselves visible in geek culture. Reddit is a hugely popular site, and it can be a good place to go to stay abreast of a lot of stuff that's happening online and in popular culture. Telling women that they should just stay away from it is not really a good solution, especially when so many other areas of the internet are prone to the same issues.

I also think people are underestimating the impact of just having to wade through the huge numbers of sexist comments that a post like that can attract. The voting system and moderation eventually help clear away a lot of the worst shit, but when you are the poster, every single comment shows up in your inbox, as well as any private messages people feel the need to send you. I had a post that reached the front page of reddit, an album with pictures of my nail art. The only thing that identified me as a woman was the "girly" subject matter, but I still got a crazy amount of sexist and sexual comments. At one point I started screencapping them, so take a look at this if you want a taste. It was depressing and discouraging and made me feel that, even though my effort to share my nifty little hobby with a wider audience met with mostly a very positive response, it was not something I wanted to try again any time soon.
posted by bookish at 3:54 PM on December 19, 2014 [32 favorites]


Telling women that they should just stay away from it is not really a good solution, especially when so many other areas of the internet are prone to the same issues.

I prefer to read these articles not so much as telling women to stay away, but rather telling Reddit's management that they need to be proactive in changing their site so that women don't talk about it being terrible.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:03 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


On a lark I popped into /r/feminism to see what kind of horrible commentary the redditors would be engaging in there, and I couldn't find anything that would upset anyone's sensibilities (unless you are an Ann Coulter fan I suppose). Problem is, that seems to be an incredibly low traffic sub. Most articles have zero comments (but again, the ones that do seem reasonable).

Unless something has changed in the past couple of years, /r/feminism is moderated by MRAs.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:11 PM on December 19, 2014 [7 favorites]


A plurality of reddit's user base is there for the creepshots style content. If they started aggressively banning motherfuckers for their aggro misogyny, they'd lose a ton of money.

Basically, you can't think of reddit as a decent site with a creepshots-looking pustule attached to it. Instead, it's at its core a pustule. Good things can happen there, but good things aren't central to their business model. The sandwich joke, on the other hand, that's very central to their business model indeed.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:21 PM on December 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


"I am hell of getting tired of "everybody poops in the punch!" being the price of interacting with people on the internet."

See, you're an obviously a half-empty sort of dude... For me, I'm always pretty happy when someone puts a couple of cups of punch in the poop bowl.


I think you BOTH are going to terrible parties.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:22 PM on December 19, 2014 [20 favorites]


scelerat: “Also you can't at the same time damn an AMA and reddit as a whole, while at the same time invalidating its key moderation feature. That is part of the medium! Sure, the AMAs happen in realtime, so maybe reddit isn't the best forum for a completely troll-free live Q&A, but in general reddit's topical segregation and bubbling of upvoted comments works very well over time. As posts on reddit age, they get better, because comments are moderated by the users. Bad comments get downvoted; good comments and their threads bubble to the top. As anonymous discussion forums go, it's hard to find models that yield better results at traffic/audience volume within an order of magnitude or so.”

Upvoting and downvoting is absolutely not a moderation feature. It obviously helps, but anyone who's been on Reddit for any amount of time knows that moderators spend ridiculous amounts of time watching those tides and trying to make sure they go in this direction or that direction. People spend a lot of time trying to pinpoint brigading, which is problematic because it waters down this effect and eventually makes it useless.

Meanwhile, the actual moderators on Reddit are pretty much left to fend for themselves with zero support. That's a problem. It means that Reddit as a whole and all the subreddits individually are in the hands of unpaid volunteers who may wish to walk away at any point and who have absolutely no help whatsoever from the people who actually own the site. Meanwhile, the people who actually own the site attempt to espouse a value-free open door policy, which is basically a way of washing their hands of any responsibility to help the people who do all the work on Reddit and keep the thing together.

As time goes on, we see more and more situations where moderators are overrun and left to deal with the mess, who are brigaded and told there's nothing to be done about it, who are hit with a sexist or racist onslaught and have to fight tooth and nail to get their subreddits on track.

This the the deal: Reddit has a culture. It has a culture of people who communicate about shared ideals and hopes and dreams. The admins may wish to pretend this isn't the case, but they're deluding themselves, and in deluding themselves they're making Reddit a much more difficult place to be a part of. If the admins actually said things like "we won't tolerate sexist / racism / etc" then the mods would have support, could escalate egregious and highly problematic cases and hope to have some resolution. Until the mods say anything like that, the tacit message which comes in loud and clear is that Reddit is okay with sexism, racism, etc.

But of course – for admins to take an active role, they would have to actually hire people to help them do that, and take on the task of confronting things that the culture doesn't approve of. They already do this, of course, but they're trying to pretend they don't, because it's easier to wash one's hands than to wade in and take responsibility.
posted by koeselitz at 4:27 PM on December 19, 2014 [15 favorites]


For some time Metafilter had issues with FPPs about women derailed with "I'd hit that". We have a number of tough discussions about it and now we're much better than we used to be, though there is room for improvement.

Website culture can change.
posted by divabat at 4:34 PM on December 19, 2014 [15 favorites]


Anyway I think the responses to the AMA are not *necessarily* a valid data point on how misogyny still exists in science, technology, engineering and math.

It's a great example of how a subset of anonymous 14 year old boys comport themselves when they have an open forum with anyone with a perceived vulnerability. The AMA is an example of trolling, not of sexism on the internet. The blatant sexism on display is, as the article even put it, "a parody." What was shown there was there specifically to yank the AMA OP's chain. The need to yank chains is what's being exhibited, and of course we should look at why.

Nevertheless if you want to talk about sexism in STEM, it might be better simply to write about personal experiences. Or take a sample of posts in forums and chat rooms that are STEM-related and not on the topic of gender equality, and find those posts that are dismissive of women, those that are condescending, those emails that say horrible or repulsive things. That's the off-topic, off-putting stuff that is actually systemic. The men behaving that way are far worse than chain-pulling trolls. They're actively contributing to the problem.

Nobody likes trolls, but trolls are an easy problem: ignore. They simply thrive on the reaction. No reaction, no point in trolling. They say anything to get a reaction. And when you respond, they win. When you don't, they go away. It really is as simple as that.
posted by scelerat at 4:51 PM on December 19, 2014


god damn there is so much apology for what a sexist shithole reddit is in this thread what the fuck guys?

Also, AMA stands for "Ask Me Anything." It's not "Ask Me Questions Related To My Field Or Area Of Study" or "Ask Me Anything in a Non-Bigoted Way." I think many users of reddit view these as roasts and they are generally on their worst behavior in these sorts of things (see the President's AMA as proof).

*BRRRRNNNNNT* no sorry, try again. Read say, the oneplusone AMA, or most of the celebrity ones, or even other scientists AMAs(assuming they're men).

You can split all the hairs you want about some of those not being in /r/iama or whatever, but the point is that only women really get treated like shit by reddit, even compared to men reddit love to hate on or shit on who do them.

Reddit has a gigantic sexism problem, and that problem is really just a wider problem in STEM and among nerdy guys in general with some of the varnish scratched off so you can see it better.

As time goes on, we see more and more situations where moderators are overrun and left to deal with the mess, who are brigaded and told there's nothing to be done about it, who are hit with a sexist or racist onslaught and have to fight tooth and nail to get their subreddits on track

A lot of subreddits have as many mods as all of metafilter. The big ones like iama and askme have 2-3x or even more. There's a lot more volume involved, yea, but it's still focused in essentially one alley. There's generally several moderators active at any given time on even the smaller-big subs. Over and over and over it's been demonstrated that mods either refuse to act, or actually make statements that they will not act because both sides bla bla bla. There's plenty of examples like this where the mods were around the entire time, but basically went "everyone is making drama about this including the victim this isn't up for discussion" and basically act like the perpetrators did nothing wrong, and everyone just needs to shut up.

Over, and over, and over.

I've been following this behavior on reddit for around 5 years. It's gotten worse, and it's tacitly approved of by all the major moderators and the admins. Seriously, can you read something like this(which has been posted in the sony thread before) and not see the big picture?
posted by emptythought at 4:56 PM on December 19, 2014 [31 favorites]


Check out Why Are There So Few Female Computer Scientists? written in 1991 by another female MIT computer scientist, Dr. Ellen Spertus. What was true then is still true now and it is a shame. [I am a female computer scientist as well although I only have a lowly bachelor's degree from a state agricultural school :).]
posted by elmay at 4:56 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


I went trying to find something reliable about the demographics of Reddit users and failed. Surely Reddit themselves know, to justify advertising and company valuation. But maybe there's nothing public?

The best I could find is a 2013 Pew survey of Internet users, asking them how many people use Reddit. From that it's pretty clear Reddit skews young and very, very male. I'd love to see better data specifically polled from Reddit users.
posted by Nelson at 5:16 PM on December 19, 2014


It's too bad we can't have AMA's in a place that has more grown ups. Like here.
posted by freakazoid at 5:21 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ahem.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:24 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


The AMA is an example of trolling, not of sexism on the internet.

I'm pretty sure trolling can still be sexist, even if it has a performative ironic overtone.

Had this been three black CS profs, and the AMA full of pseudo-ironic watermelon and Rodney King jokes, you would not think to defend the bigots as simply trolls being trolls.

Of late I've come around to first simply labeling contemptuous behavior as contemptuous, and understand that it is that, and then consider further categorizing it.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:36 PM on December 19, 2014 [10 favorites]


Had this been three black CS profs, and the AMA full of pseudo-ironic watermelon and Rodney King jokes, you would not think to defend the bigots as simply trolls being trolls.

Eh, that still happens.

Trolling is still sexism. Trolling drives women out of STEM - has the entirety of GamerGate completely escaped you?
posted by divabat at 5:41 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm genuinely curious what this thread could/should accomplish other than produce a chorus of (justified, for sure) outrage and disappointment.

The behavior of assholes on Reddit is outrageous and disappointing. Brilliant scientists shouldn't have to deal with that kind of shit, and brilliant female scientists are faced with a whole separate degree of gendered shit that is absolutely uncalled-for and morally repugnant.

But what are we supposed to say about it other than that? Saying "it's Reddit--it's a cesspool" is making people mad. Saying "the Reddit system worked--those assholes were downvoted" is making people mad.

I just don't know what to say here that is A) not going to make people mad and B) not just adding to the (justified, for sure) moral indignation.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:43 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Joseph Gurl: You haven't mentioned "listen to the people who are being made mad and pay attention to the solutions they are bringing up".
posted by divabat at 5:47 PM on December 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


Okay, divabat, I'll listen to the mad people. I'm still awaiting solutions, though (can we here at Metafilter provide solutions to Reddit issues?).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:50 PM on December 19, 2014


Like what, start our own AMA?
posted by uosuaq at 5:54 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


No and No.
posted by clavdivs at 5:55 PM on December 19, 2014


Maybe you can actually help come up with some solutions, as informed by the people talking about why dismissing their claims of sexism as "oh, it's just Reddit" makes them mad?
posted by divabat at 5:56 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't have any solutions. If I had some, I'd eagerly share them.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:02 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Just to be clear, I'm not dismissing claims of sexism--this is clearly a case of gross sexism. I'm just not sure what this thread can accomplish other than serve as a place to vent outrage.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:04 PM on December 19, 2014


Maybe I should revise my statement about solutions:

I'm certain Metafilter cannot provide solutions to Reddit problems.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:07 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


This isn't just a problem with Reddit. This is a symptom of much larger problems: disrespect against women in STEM, coupled with the assumption that "the Internet is what it is" leading to apologia for stuff like this Reddit AMA.
posted by divabat at 6:09 PM on December 19, 2014 [11 favorites]


don't reddit. Not even when you're totally out of Internet. Don't post there or otherwise contribute content. Pull a face whenever anyone talks about reddit, so that they'll be less likely to talk about it in the future / so that non-redditors don't get the idea that redditry is socially acceptable. Basically, exert whatever social pressure you can to getting actual people off of the site, so that the little monsters who make up their core demographic don't have actual people there to [provide cover|make it look like what they say and do is somehow acceptable in adult society.]
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:09 PM on December 19, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'm genuinely curious what this thread could/should accomplish...

1. The 'could' is providing another incremental nudge for people who play the "boys will be boys so just shrug it off" card. If the voices in this thread that say "No, that shit is not okay and look, dumbass, it's the kind of knee jerk you can actually control" can nudge the boys-will-be-boys crowd one tick closer to knocking it off with that crap, that's a good thing.

2. There is no 'should.' This is a site where people discuss things, it's not a summit of People with the Power to End Casual Misogyny.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:09 PM on December 19, 2014 [20 favorites]


Education could be one reason for this post. See here for example.
posted by futz at 6:12 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Getting people off Reddit isn't going to make the trolls magically disappear (and actually there's a fair bit of reddit that's reasonable, like Secret Santa).
posted by divabat at 6:12 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


divabat: I agree that it's "a symptom of much larger problems: disrespect against women in STEM" (and women in general, even more broadly). But seeing things that way makes this specific thread a proxy for an even more unwieldy issue that Metafilter can't solve. It reminds me of this great comment by lobstermitten:
Shirtgate was of a form that often leads to posts that go badly. Here's the form:

1. There is a real problem (e.g. climate for women in STEM, or campus rape)
2. One event happens that is connected to this problem (STEM guy wears incredibly inappropriate shirt, Rolling Stone publishes this one woman's story)....
3. Tons of media coverage, bloggy essays, people having opinions on facebook and twitter - it's everywhere, it seems like big news....
4. So people feel like it should be a post here. All the other places people are talking about it, the conversation sucks, so surely bringing it here will yield a better conversation about it. Plus, it's connected to a real problem that's important...
5. The post centers on #2 and #3...
6. The comments devolve into fights about the details of the event, generating bad feelings and long fighty thread, and the discussion of the real problem is obscured.

Internet nerds want to pick apart anything that can be picked. So they'll pick apart the details of an event. (Was the guy's shirt so inappropriate after all? What about someone's response on Twitter, was it too harsh? Were there factual inconsistencies in the Rolling Stone story? Shouldn't we really reserve judgment about whether a story is true?)

People who want to focus on the Real Problem are super annoyed by this picking because it seems like willfully ignoring the main point. (And it's a truly important issue that's highly personal for people, it's not just some abstract thing, why are these jerks being so pedantic or even deliberately deflecting attention from it? They must not think Real Problem is a real problem.) But look, the post is inadvertently set up from the start to deflect attention from the main real-world problem, by centering on the specific event -- which has all kinds of distracting, possibly-arguable specific details, and which by now everyone's seen on their facebooks and twitters, and has opinions and emotions about already, and is ready to charge in and unload those opinions without reading any links.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:15 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


mudpuppie: I like your #1. It's a potential positive outcome from the thread. As for your #2, there's a site convention that frowns on "outragefilter," and I was (am?) trying to figure out if this thread is something other than that.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:17 PM on December 19, 2014


We can't fix reddit, but i think we can fix the way that we as a site interact with reddit. "not all parts are bad!" and "oh that's just reddit" definitely doesn't fly anymore. The site itself is essentially a case study in how not to run a major website, that has repeatedly caused actual material harm to people.

I'd support like, any FPP linking to reddit or a discussion about reddit having a warning a link to a faq about how it's a freaking terrible site, along the lines of the trans 101 faq.

I also just figured this thread was a discussion space for what could be done to avoid this type of stuff in other communities, but i mean, whatever people want to do with it i guess.
posted by emptythought at 6:23 PM on December 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


Reddit is embarrassing, and I finally just killed my account there. I don't care about the 'good' subreddits any more. I'm not going to contribute to the bottom line of a completely irresponsible corporate citizen any more. Until they purge the MRA and white supremacy subreddits that are a cancer infecting the rest of the site, I'm not coming back.

I don't have much hope that they will.
posted by empath at 6:26 PM on December 19, 2014 [11 favorites]


Which is pretty much exactly the problem, see.

Yes, I do see. But the adage goes: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So I would suggest going into a reddit AMA expecting it to be different this time is unrealistic. It doesn't make the behavior any less shitty.

I mean, you start out by saying it's a cesspool and nobody should expect any sort of civilized behavior and then you do a 180 flip and say the subreddits you visit are "mostly civilized". So, which is it? If it's always predictably shitty, does that mean the places that you visit are an aberration in Reddit and their method of moderating and social guidelines cannot be copied? If it's not an aberration, then why can't they be copied to other subreddits?

I didn't say it was a cesspool. I said "It's one site on the internet that is generally looked at as a cesspool of civility." My experience there is a lot different because I stay to the subs that are mostly civilized. You get the occasional asshat, but for the most part it's not difficult to find areas that aren't offensive: /r/aww, /r/somethingimade, /r/walkingdead, /r/science, etc.

As far as copying the method of moderation from other subs that are more civil and less shitty…I'm suggesting the members of that sub aren't interested in that. They like how that sub is run. They're fine with the culture the way it is. They are fine with downvoting as a method of moderation. There are tons of areas on reddit I wouldn't go to. You couldn't pay me to read a post in /r/pua. I am also not a fan of /r/iama for the very reasons people are stating in this thread.

The beauty of reddit is you can create a subreddit on any topic. Once that's done it can have its own rules, FAQ, etc. You even get to be the moderator. If it gets popular based on the topic or how it's run then people want to post in there. If not you're /r/puppets. The whole reason celebrities and whatnot come do AMAs is because generally they are promoting something and they want an audience. It's too bad the audience doesn't comport themselves in a decent manner, but expecting a sub to conform to your wishes when it has an established userbase and culture is unrealistic.

People pointed out that the upvoting/downvoting mechanics of the site functioned as intended. The asshat comments were sunk. People countered with the fact that the behavior still happened and these women were still exposed to shittyness. I have sympathies with both arguments, but that's how the site has functioned since its inception with little change. If going to a site and being upset at how it is run, moderated, functions, and it's members, then I would say reddit isn't for you. That's ok, not everyone has to like every site (or sub). Me? I stay out of the ones with the racist, sexist, bigoted people in them and down vote their comments when I do see them (or when they troll the subs I do go to like /r/apple). Shit comments sink to the bottom and I seldom see them. It's how the site functions. I'm fine with this because I avoid the areas that seem to attract the idiots. Others might not be, but that's how the site is run.

Maybe I've just given up, but I don't see a way to change it. So there are a few choices. Stay away, focus on the decent subs, or try to change the culture. You can't do that last one from without, so unless you are a reddit member actively seeking to influence the subs you are in you've probably not got to see /r/iama change. Perhaps if people stopped doing AMAs, but that's not going to happen because there are a lot of people on there.

I guess one can argue shithead users in one sub make the site horrible for all and the whole site sucks because it's young males being stupid, but that's not how I see it. The fact that there's an /r/popping doesn't diminish the value I find in /r/sysadmin.

We can't fix reddit, but i think we can fix the way that we as a site interact with reddit. "not all parts are bad!" and "oh that's just reddit" definitely doesn't fly anymore.

One of the women in the AMA under discussion has been a redditor for three years. Obviously she found some value in some part of the site.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:30 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm with Buick.
That was my first experience with Reddit. It sounds like people in a electric Phaeton.
posted by clavdivs at 6:31 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Reddit is pretty much Compuserve, populated by teenagers.
posted by thelonius at 6:35 PM on December 19, 2014


Reddit is the Internet, basically. There are good parts and bad parts. The admins are pretty laissez-faire, so it's down to the individual communities to make their communities not shit. Many of them fail at this, if they even try. I would dislike giving up the discussion and content that I get from Reddit just because some parts of it are crap.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:51 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


I feel like the focus on Reddit in and of itself is something of a red herring.
posted by divabat at 7:07 PM on December 19, 2014 [7 favorites]


I didn't say it was a cesspool. I said "It's one site on the internet that is generally looked at as a cesspool of civility."

You don't say it's a cesspool, but you go on to pretty much say you shouldn't expect it not be a cesspool. I mean, it's the ambiguity of such remarks and acceptance of them that allow Reddit users the room to behave in such a way.

You can't do that last one from without, so unless you are a reddit member actively seeking to influence the subs you are in you've probably not got to see /r/iama change.

I don't know if I change things, but I constantly call Reddit a bad place every chance I get. Any sort of bad news on Reddit I spread to show terrible the place is. Any current user of Reddit, I tell them to read SRS to see how bad things are. It's not much, but I can say my one success is getting my brother to consider that Reddit is terrible and he should minimize his presence on there.
posted by FJT at 7:15 PM on December 19, 2014


>I mean, it's the ambiguity of such remarks and acceptance of them that allow Reddit users the room to behave in such a way.

No, it's the Reddit policies that allow Reddit users the room to behave in such a way.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:17 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


No, it's the Reddit policies that allow Reddit users the room to behave in such a way.

There's a Reddit policy that tells users to be racist and sexist?

I'm talking more about site culture, which isn't limited only to site policy.
posted by FJT at 7:22 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Even on MetaFilter, the dominating narrative is that women either bring it on ourselves or should do something differently in order to not have a problem, with the overwhelming emphasis being on "stop talking about this."

The big difference now is that women won't stop talking about it, even here with ever so nice people asking us to and accusing us of wanting censorship.

And damn it, it is not out fault that other people are assholes in public.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:35 PM on December 19, 2014 [26 favorites]


You don't say it's a cesspool, but you go on to pretty much say you shouldn't expect it not be a cesspool.

I don't think it was an ambiguous statement at all. It's not a difficult sentence to parse. My point is if people see it as such a shitty place, then it shouldn't be shocking that shitty things happen there. I would argue it's not inherently a bucket of crap and that you can have a decent experience there, but there's a learning curve.

If your reality of reddit is the dominant narrative, then explain why people choose to do these AMAs.

Saying "the users of reddit are X" or "reddit is X" is like saying "the users of metafilter are Y" or "metafilter is Y." It doesn't work.

Perhaps if the comments under discussion had been upvoted there could be a case made.

The irony here is a lot of the comments have been removed. Just like they are on metafilter. And just like on metafilter they happen.

From the /r/iama FAQ:
Comments will be removed under a few circumstances:
  1. Abusive or harassing comments
  2. Comments responding to verification that are unrelated to verification.
  3. Requests for personal favors from the OP (For example, "OP, can you send me a signed autograph").
  4. Top-level comments that do not ask a question. This includes "OMG I love you..." and "No questions, just thanks!"
  5. Comments where there would be no possibility of a real answer, especially where it is deliberately creepy or offensive.
  6. "I bet OP won't answer this"-type responses, which usually come before the OP has finished responding to questions.
  7. "Fluff," non-contributing responses from users, responding to all of the OP's comments for karma/attention.
  8. Repeatedly asking the same question, which violates Reddit's site-wide rules.
Users get banned, comments get removed, stupidity is downvoted and called out. It's how the site works. Again, it's not for everyone, but enough people disagree with your assessment of its badness.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:43 PM on December 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


One thing to note about Reddit is they recently rid themselves of their CEO, Yishan Wong. I have no idea if that will end up changing the company or its culture, but Yishan was personally responsible for two recent unpleasant tone-deaf communications this year that were facepalm-inducing stupidity. I'm hopeful the leadership change either signals or will make way for more reasonable leadership.

Reddit is explicitly a place for a diversity of opinions. I'm sort of OK with crazy racists or sexists having their own little ghetto on Reddit as long as I don't have to ever see it. Part of what's so troubling about this particular incident with the MIT computer scientists is it happened on /r/IAmA, which is generally a good place and one of Reddit's nicest unique-but-mainstream features. Casual sexism there is not expected and certainly not OK. I think the moderation and voting algorithms basically did their job in the end and the page today you read is not too bad. But I feel terrible for the women subjected to sexist bullshit and applaud them for calling it out on Wired.
posted by Nelson at 8:01 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


FJT: “You don't say it's a cesspool, but you go on to pretty much say you shouldn't expect it not be a cesspool. I mean, it's the ambiguity of such remarks and acceptance of them that allow Reddit users the room to behave in such a way.”

Joseph Gurl: “No, it's the Reddit policies that allow Reddit users the room to behave in such a way.”

FJT: “There's a Reddit policy that tells users to be racist and sexist?”

It is Reddit policy to tell people that they're allowed to be racist and sexist on Reddit, yes.

This is not some amorphous problem with general site culture. This is a problem with Reddit admins, from Alexis Ohanian on down. This is a problem with those admins refusing to accept the responsibility of listening to and enforcing site culture. Redditors are not just inveterately evil. They're just part of a community whose infrastructure is owned by people who don't understand anything about how community works.
posted by koeselitz at 8:29 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


>Even on MetaFilter, the dominating narrative is that women either bring it on ourselves or should do something differently in order to not have a problem, with the overwhelming emphasis being on "stop talking about this."

I strongly disagree that this is "the dominating narrative" (and I strongly disagree with it as well).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:36 PM on December 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


There are inappropriate questions and trolls in almost every single Reddit AMA.

I am disappointed that no one asked them if they'd rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck. The old ways are dying. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 8:46 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]




Does anyone have access to Reddit ad rates? I would bet the most expensive to advertise places are the cesspools.
posted by benzenedream at 8:52 PM on December 19, 2014


Part of what's so troubling about this particular incident with the MIT computer scientists is it happened on /r/IAmA, which is generally a good place and one of Reddit's nicest unique-but-mainstream features.

I tried to do an IAmA about being involved in Slutwalk.

NEVER THE FUCK AGAIN.
posted by divabat at 9:04 PM on December 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


Reddit is embarrassing, and I finally just killed my account there. I don't care about the 'good' subreddits any more. I'm not going to contribute to the bottom line of a completely irresponsible corporate citizen any more. Until they purge the MRA and white supremacy subreddits that are a cancer infecting the rest of the site, I'm not coming back.

Your comment has persuaded me that I should probably give up Reddit too, empath, but I'm not sure I can quit cold turkey. Are there any other websites that provide a similar constant stream of current memes and popular photographs?

I know that Tumblr serves this role for some people but it's not organized in a way I find useful.

Maybe I should just go straight to the source of the content I like, and look at popular pictures on Imgur instead?

Ideas? Or should I just make an AskMe?
posted by Jacqueline at 9:28 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


you can have a decent experience there, but there's a learning curve.

"you can totally eat the feces once you get used to the taste of it"
posted by Greg Nog at 9:28 PM on December 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


Imgur is a reddit property.

You see the same crap on Twitter, but I don't see people suggesting that service is broken.

And I would say you can avoid the feces just by learning where to step.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:32 PM on December 19, 2014


And I would say you can avoid the feces just by learning where to step.

So, Reddit is like downtown San Francisco?
posted by Jacqueline at 9:34 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Imgur is a reddit property.

No it isn't. It grew out of Reddit's community, and Reddit has some sort of investment in it, but is independent and funded by VC money at this point.
posted by asterix at 11:05 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


The issue here isn't whether or not to read Reddit. You can stop reading a website, but it reveals the attitude of our culture by being a low-moderation, open-door forum.
posted by mdn at 11:05 PM on December 19, 2014 [9 favorites]


Are there any other websites that provide a similar constant stream of current memes and popular photographs?

MLKSHK
posted by keli at 2:43 AM on December 20, 2014


#NotAllSubreddits {\}
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:29 AM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Someone upthread asked about the demographics of Reddit users. I don't know overall, but I participate in subreddit called actuallesbians (as opposed I guess to notactuallesbians :)). In any case, they are doing a demographic survey, so not only is this a small subreddit but it is a self-selected sample. I was astonished to find that at 53, I was one of only 6 users in my age bracket out of around 2500 users. The vast majority were 18-29.
posted by elmay at 6:43 AM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Reddit is explicitly a place for a diversity of opinions. I'm sort of OK with crazy racists or sexists having their own little ghetto on Reddit as long as I don't have to ever see it

So there are a few reasons why I think this assessment of reddit is naïve.
  1. The nasties aren't ghettoized; regardless of the topic, the subreddit for that topic is likely to be full of white boys in love with their own dicks and in hate with everyone who isn't them.The good subreddits are a rare exception.*
  2. Although reddit's management claims that the site is a place for diversity of opinion, there is not nearly as much diversity of opinion on the site as one would expect, due to how the influence of the aforementioned self-regarding boys colors (almost) everything. Moreover, because those boys are the source of a very large portion of the site's traffic and revenue, and because reddit's management itself in large part actually shares their views, the site generally caters to them even when their actions suppress the diversity of opinion to which the site is allegedly devoted.
  3. There's a million sites (stormfront, the nastier chans, various explicitly misogynist porn forums, and so forth) that have more consistently evil content than reddit does. No one talks about those sites, though. More to the point, no one with any real power thinks it's acceptable to participate on them. Reddit, on the other hand, has the thin veneer of respectability granted by the few decent subreddits. This makes participation in the respectable subreddits itself a problematic act, since by doing so one is tacitly assisting in the mainstreaming of the site's real ideology.
*: I first realized this when I started visiting r/seattle and the bay area subreddits — despite how these municipal areas are chock full of some of the best people on earth, the subreddits for them are useless-jackass-central.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:56 AM on December 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


I am very glad they wrote this article because so far as I can tell, even the young'uns on reddit read Wired sometimes.

I'll cop to it. I love reddit. The bullshit sexist racists don't hang out where I can see them and/or get downvoted into obscurity. That puts it way ahead of just about any other "news" site's comments section plus I don't have to explain that my flag/downvote is because the offending comment is either "spam" or "personally threatened me." (Thanks, Disqus! Btw, WTF?)

Yeah, there area lot of vocal asshats but there are far more people who aren't and I'm unwilling to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Also, I think most guy humor is hilarious. Despite this, you'll have to pry my feminist badge from my cold, dead fingers.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:43 AM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


It is possible to use Reddit as a platform for a smaller subreddit community that isn't toxic, but the site as a whole is pretty much designed to suck.

First, it is huge, and the bigger it gets, the lower the lowest common denominator gets. And it's also very fast moving. You don't have a lot of time to make a point there. It does not lend itself to nuanced or cumulative understandings of anything. It's also popularity driven. The most visible content is always going to be the content that appeals to the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. That is why memes are so successful, on Reddit and elsewhere. And think about what memes are: They're trite, formulaic recastings of the same stereotyped perspective over and over and over again. And a lot of those are nothing more than stereotypes. And there's active competition to repeat those stereotypes in as many different ways as possible.

The low barriers to entry and the simplicity of the messages make it very appealing to kids and other easily influenced people, which just perpetuates the problem by solidifying and normalizing their biases. For lots of kids there, Reddit is one of their first experiences talking to 'adults' in a fairly equal manner. They think this is normal, or even ideal, behavior and attitudes from grownups. (Every internet forum spends a fair amount of time patting itself on the back for being the bestest and the smarterest forum, though. That's not unique to the Reddit model.)

To actually fix the overall Reddit culture would require completely dismantling it first.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:48 AM on December 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Reddit's sitewide admins have defended bigots and penalized minorities with enough consistency that I sort of have the impression now that at least some of them are actual bigots. A lot of it goes beyond the oblivious libertarian Marketplace of Ideas rhetoric.

I quit Reddit after something I'd written (quick summary: "Want to Write Trans Characters That Don't Suck? Facts Got Your Back!") ended up there, generating overwhelming and genuinely frightening levels of inchoate rage and personal threats. When I noticed dudes maybe trying to stalk/dox me on a subreddit maybe for dudes trying to stalk/dox people, I cut and ran and burned as much Internet Backtrail as I could live with.

There are a lot of good parts to the site, but it's not New Usenet. It's one big interconnected website. What's evil about Reddit is that it's easy to filter all the ugly stuff out, but if you engage with subs for trans people or women or people of color, the ugly parts will seep in and overwhelm you. You complacently settle into an illusory sense of safety, but there's still a whole tidal wave of monsters outside your peripheral vision.

The only safe way to engage with the site as a woman or a trans person or a person of color is to use a dummy account filtered to your interests without ever, ever commenting or posting anything. The worst part of that situation is that the solution is pretty easy: moderate. Ban bigots. Disallow hate groups. Have rules; or, if nothing else, at least consistently enforce the rules lawyery non-rules.
posted by byanyothername at 11:05 AM on December 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


(Every internet forum spends a fair amount of time patting itself on the back for being the bestest and the smarterest forum, though. That's not unique to the Reddit model.)

Every forum but one, you mean.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:14 AM on December 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


If they didn't want the questions to revolve around their gender, why mention it in the title? If I was a guy giving an AMA I wouldn't start it off "Male computer scientist here...". Plenty of women give AMAs on reddit all the time and their gender isn't even a part of the conversation. If they had said "We’re 3 computer scientists working on XYZ..." then they would have gotten much different responses. They brought it up, they made it an issue, then they are surprised people noticed?

Also, all the top upvoted questions are completely unrelated to the gender issues the article mentions.
posted by sophist at 11:45 AM on December 20, 2014


sophist: and thus you miss the point of the entire article.
posted by divabat at 11:49 AM on December 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


Plenty of women give AMAs on reddit all the time and their gender isn't even a part of the conversation.

I honestly don't think that's true. Maybe, after several days, it's not evident in the upvoted comments. But I am highly skeptical that AMAs with women are not generally full of sexism, even if it does eventually frequently end up downvoted. Nelson linked to several other AMAs involving women that went similarly badly. Please link to an AMA with a woman where her gender was not part of the conversation.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:05 PM on December 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


If they didn't want the questions to revolve around their gender, why mention it in the title?

I think they were fine with questions revolving around their gender. Do you, personally, think questions about bra sizes, declarations that they must have copied male students' exam answers, and "tits or GTFO" are reasonable questions to scientists "revolving around their gender"? If you do, you are part of the problem.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:10 PM on December 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


In Reddit's defense we've had some really terrible discussions on the subject of feminism, transgendered issues, the IP conflict, user fallouts on MeTa, etc.
posted by humanfont at 12:10 PM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


we've had some really terrible discussions on the subject of feminism, transgendered issues, the IP conflict, user fallouts on MeTa, etc.

True, but then consequences of those actions, especially these days, are long, long, LONG metatalk threads where everyone explains why it sucks. So at least we don't let ourselves off the hook scot free.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:13 PM on December 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


If they didn't want the questions to revolve around their gender, why mention it in the title? If I was a guy giving an AMA I wouldn't start it off "Male computer scientist here...". Plenty of women give AMAs on reddit all the time and their gender isn't even a part of the conversation. If they had said "We’re 3 computer scientists working on XYZ..." then they would have gotten much different responses. They brought it up, they made it an issue, then they are surprised people noticed?

Legit questions for women related to their gender:
  • How has your gender affected your career in STEM?
  • What sort of attitudes about gender have you seen in your colleagues?
  • Why did you remain invested in STEM when so many women don't? What systemic problems should we rectify? What can I do to help?
Not-legit questions for women related to their gender:
  • Why are you out of the kitchen?
  • Would you make me a sandwich?
  • How can I trust that you're actually a woman if you won't expose your mammaries?
posted by Going To Maine at 12:15 PM on December 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


Oh, yes, also:
  • Why don't you women just accept that many of us will be horrible to you?
posted by Going To Maine at 12:16 PM on December 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


sophist: “If they didn't want the questions to revolve around their gender, why mention it in the title? If I was a guy giving an AMA I wouldn't start it off ‘Male computer scientist here...’”

Did you read the article at all? It points out explicitly that many males do post AMAs with titles like "male dog groomer" and don't get hassled about it.
posted by koeselitz at 12:48 PM on December 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


sophist: If I was a guy giving an AMA I wouldn't start it off "Male computer scientist here...".

Eponysterical.
posted by virago at 12:51 PM on December 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


On a lark I popped into /r/feminism to see what kind of horrible commentary the redditors would be engaging in there, and I couldn't find anything that would upset anyone's sensibilities (unless you are an Ann Coulter fan I suppose). Problem is, that seems to be an incredibly low traffic sub. Most articles have zero comments (but again, the ones that do seem reasonable).

I know the We Hunted The Mammoth bit on how that sub is run by an MRA was posted earlier, but it's really terrible. They basically ban every feminist who fails to be nice enough to the pet MRAs who hang out there. There are some actual feminist subs, but a lot of them are overpopulated by TERFs, so most of the decent feminist discussion tends to happen on SRS affiliated subs.

If they didn't want the questions to revolve around their gender, why mention it in the title?

*hits head against desk repeatedly for a thousand years*
posted by NoraReed at 1:41 PM on December 20, 2014 [7 favorites]




If they didn't want the questions to revolve around their gender, why mention it in the title? If I was a guy giving an AMA I wouldn't start it off "Male computer scientist here...".

Did you copy paste this reply from reddit? I mean seriously. I try my hardest to assume good faith, but i just can't this time, sorry. This is exactly the same arguments I've seen there, and comes from the same shelf as "why do women always post pictures of things that they themselves are in?". It's a not so subtle play at the whole "attention whore" thing, whether you consciously meant it that way or not. It's just too freighted with the thousands of instances of it being presented that way with malice and bile.

I think their writeup very well outlines that it's notable to be a woman in this field, and this behavior is part of the reason why. There's definitely been "I'm a male nurse" type amas, and i never ever heard any sort of "why do you need to state that up front hmm?" type of crap there.

There's just no way to divorce "why mention you're a woman" from the nerdy dude implicit follow-on of "I know the answer and you're just doing it for attention". Sorry.

In Reddit's defense we've had some really terrible discussions on the subject of feminism, transgendered issues, the IP conflict, user fallouts on MeTa, etc.

Is this like shitty reddit retort bingo? "you've done crappy things too so tsk tsk if you criticize" is one of the limpest arguments. It's like the reverse of "starving children in Africa". It's like oppression Olympics, it leads to a position where you realize no one can truly speak from the high ground. It's a total silencing and derailing tactic.

From what I've seen the difference here is that several people do a shitty thing, there's a big court-of-Q-against-picard rabbley throw down in meta, and stuff changes. We don't just dismiss things off handedly and tell people to shut up and sit down. And if someone does, people telling them that not ok don't get buried.

This site doesn't refuse to change. This site is, from my seat, slowly but surely treating people better and being a better place. The major subreddits and large scale community of reddit, from the moderators on down, stomp their feet like toddlers and flat-out refuse to change. After all, the problem would go away on its own if women just stopped being such attention horses and shoving their gender in our faces for upvotes.

Seriously, you're going "mefi is bad too!" compared to a site that called a rape victim a liar until she washed her face on video, and regularly calls black people animals. You're comparing a parking lot bump with a 5 car pileup to make some weird rhetorical point. Give it a rest, it's stretched beyond snapping and i really have to wonder about your motivation here.
posted by emptythought at 3:28 PM on December 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


The SRS subs get a fair amount of attention on Reddit, though, which translates to a fair number of infiltrators.

So on top of not being a safe space, it contributes to an atmosphere of hair trigger hostility. This is actually common to feminist forums, but because they're actually on Reddit, I think it's worse there than it is most places.

It's totally understandable, but it's not really conducive to dialog or anything like that. SRS proper does a valuable public service by documenting trends on Reddit and preserving the original up-down votes, but the overall site dynamic really taints things too much.

IMO, obviously.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:59 PM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Our little blue byway away from Reddit's eight lanes going both ways Interstate may not have the regular stream of eight car pile ups and fatalities like Reddit, but that doesnt mean we have better drivers or safer cars here in bumblefuck. We have a lot fewer of them on the roads and plenty of highway patrols ready to write tickets to the leadfoot.

Still we have some folks with high favorite counts and an overall solid body of posts who are mod nightmares when particular topics come up. Like when Joe Beese used to go crazy at any mention of Obama.

Reddit's could improve it's tools and processes to reduce and handle the problem. Car crashes were marginally reduced when highways got upgraded. The big improvements came from looking at the design of the car and the behaviors of the driver. I think a similar strategy is needed here.
posted by humanfont at 8:16 PM on December 20, 2014


This isn't about us tho sparky. Didn't you just go do some shots? How were they?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:35 PM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Of course not it is actually about ethics in journalism.
posted by humanfont at 9:52 PM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


emptythought: "There's just no way to divorce "why mention you're a woman" from the nerdy dude implicit follow-on of "I know the answer and you're just doing it for attention". Sorry. "

The 2nd highest question:
Why did you feel the need to list your gender in your title?

EDIT: As a female who's studied digital electronics, this question was personally significant to me. If we advertise/identify our gender, does it not somehow widen the sexism gap? I'll never know.
The answers are somewhat obvious variations of "women in CS are rare", but there's a huge number of people assuming the asker is a dude, and, post edit, assuming the poster is lying about not being a dude. But after browsing the asker's history (I admit this is a somewhat contentious behavior), I don't think she's lying.

So I guess someone found a way to not only divorce the implicit follow-on, but also challenge assumptions about who posts sexists comments and questions. And in so doing managed to get self-described feminists to insult a woman, publicly call her a liar, and generally try to silence her for asking a question on the internet. And really, it's such a softball question, I don't see why anyone should be butthurt about the question or the fact that it was highly upvoted and gilded.
posted by pwnguin at 11:13 PM on December 20, 2014


Ah ha ha, the classic "they're calling me a sexist so I'll edit the question and claim I'm a woman" trick, works every time
posted by koeselitz at 11:23 PM on December 20, 2014


Okay, so I clearly didn't read the rest of your comment there. Sorry, pwguin. I still think it's a useless question, but that was an idiotic thing for me to say.
posted by koeselitz at 11:25 PM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's not a softball question because of the implication.
posted by Corinth at 1:43 AM on December 21, 2014


cjorgensen: “So just like I bristle when I read comments on metafilter that implies metafilter thinks in a particular manner with a particular world view, I bristle at the idea of people pointing at reddit as though it's some singular entity with a problem. It's legion and each sub has its own culture and rules.”

This is an idea that the admins have imposed on Reddit in order to save themselves the very hard work of actually taking responsibility for what happens on their website. But it's clearly not true. Reddit does have a culture; it is a singular entity. And it has problems that it needs to tackle as a whole.

It would be a singular entity even if only because all subreddits are on a single website called Reddit.com. But, as NoraReed pointed out above, the example you brought up – r/Feminism – happens to be a perfect example of the other ways that Reddit is a single culture with cross-cultural problems that the whole needs to confront. The subreddit r/Feminism has absolutely not managed to exist as its own sub with its own culture and rules; it did, once, some years ago, but the r/MensRights subreddit made it their mission to be part of r/Feminism to introduce their own brand of "equality." They shouted people down, escalated and had people permabanned under false pretenses, and just generally harassed the sub into falling apart and becoming a shell of what it once was. When I started looking at Reddit, r/Feminism was mostly just triumphal posts about how first-, second-, and third-wave feminists were full of crap and not actually "egalitarian," along with a lot of shouting down of anybody who had the temerity to talk about sexism they'd experienced at the hands of men. Gradually the r/MensRights people mostly abandoned r/Feminism, although there are still some around, but the damage is done. Hence, nobody says much of anything there anymore – because there's not much of substance you can say.

There are a lot of subreddits that try to resist this; and some of them are awesome at it, getting by in their quiet little backwaters and digging into fun and interesting things. But even those subreddits are populated by people who have to face Reddit's reputation when they talk about it with non-redditors.

The simple fact is that Reddit is a single community, with a single culture, however loosely defined. It's like the United States, if that isn't too grandiose: Idaho is worlds away from Vermont and New York is worlds away from California, but all of them have common laws and a common culture at their heart, despite the many differences. In the same way, Reddit has a common culture at its heart, as paper-thin as it may be: a culture of denial, of disregard, of protestations of "freedom of speech" and "what other subreddits do is not our problem or our concern."

That needs to change. Reddit needs to stand up for certain baseline principles: against hate, against racism, against sexism, and in favor of basic human dignity. "No doxxing" doesn't cut it.
posted by koeselitz at 2:31 AM on December 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


> In Reddit's defense we've had some really terrible discussions on the subject of feminism, transgendered issues, the IP conflict, user fallouts on MeTa, etc.

and

> True, but then consequences of those actions, especially these days, are long, long, LONG metatalk threads where everyone explains why it sucks. So at least we don't let ourselves off the hook scot free.

If metafilter were scaled up to the size of reddit I have no doubt how contentious topics would go. There really aren't enough moderators in the world to handle that sort of thing.

Think of Facebook. They have a robust reporting system and they have a lot of shit on these that never gets removed. They defend keeping some content based on who made the comment. Can't go censoring the Sarah Palins of the world.

I think pretending reddit is a signal entity, when it has 175 million unique visitors a month, is like saying New York is a singular entity. Or, to use koeselitz's analogy America, and for me that doesn't work. Partially it doesn't work because I see way too much diversity of opinion and interest on reddit. There's no way you can say the people there uniformly embrace the culture you ascribe.

Side note: I had no idea of the history of /r/feminism. I just popped in to see if there were a bunch of shitheels derailing discussion and found a polite ghost town.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:18 AM on December 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


There's a big difference between censoring the Sarah Palins of the world and turning a blind eye to r/creepshots. While many of the subreddits may have small bottle communities (I know this network graph *must* exist), AMAs are pretty cross-cutting, and are one of the site's points of pride.

Reddit's unwillingness to ban certain communities says something bad about how they're trying to attract users. A poster having to deal with torrents of bad comments in a showcase subreddit says that something needs to be fixed. Paid subreddit mods? An r9000 bot? Something.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:14 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess I was trying to say - it doesn't really matter whether we think of Reddit as a single entity or not. Tons of subreddits said it wasn't - claimed they were separate from the rest of Reddit - and then got overrun or brigaded or shut down by people from other subreddits.

Whether we want to believe it or not, the subreddits are connected to each other - unavoidably and inextricably.
posted by koeselitz at 5:10 PM on December 21, 2014


This statistical analysis of 142 million Reddit submissions was published in /r/dataisbeautiful today.
posted by humanfont at 6:10 PM on December 21, 2014


I've been thinking about this for a little while, and to add a counterpoint to the "Reddit is scum" POV:

The one time I ended up as an FPP here, I got way more viciousness (to the point of personal attacks) on Mefi than I did anywhere else, including Reddit. I've also had Mefites personally messaging me accusing me of things I never did - which has not happened on Reddit.

So I'm reluctant to go stone-throwing when this glass house still has cracks.
posted by divabat at 8:11 PM on December 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


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