SHARING AMERICA'S TECH NEWS FROM THE VALLEY TO THE ALLEY
by Matt Silverman (courtesy mashable)
Within the last two years, u/skeen appointed a second moderator, u/tuber, mostly to help clean up spam. As the creator of the subreddit, u/skeen always had the power to remove u/tuber’s moderator status if he disagreed with his practices. So he felt confident the subreddit would always be within his control.
Recently, u/tuber appointed other moderators, notably u/jij. It’s clear they disagree with u/skeen about moderator responsibility and content quality, and instituted new rules — notably, that links directly to images would no longer appear as thumbnails. Because there’s so much content, and funny images are more clickable, they have an unfair advantage, often polluting the front page while more meaningful content fell out of view. Removing thumbnails would, in theory, put in-depth discussion and articles on equal footing with memes.
But according to u/skeen, the newer mods did not consult him on these proposed changes. Instead, they submitted a request to Reddit’s administrators asking them to remove his moderator status.
“r/redditrequest [is] where people can apply to take ownership of abandoned subs,” u/skeen explains. “u/jij utilized this to have me removed from my sub, as I had not logged into my ‘skeen’ account for 90 days.”
As per Reddit’s policies about inactive users, this was all done above board and in public. More than 60 days of inactivity will make a user subject to the boot. But u/skeen feels his authority has been usurped, and there’s little he can do about it.
“The reason I don’t use this account is because I don’t want users of this subreddit to assume I have special power,” says u/skeen. “Why did they first remove me and then institute their policies? It’s obvious that the subreddit has been taken over by trolls.”
The outcry in the community has been substantial, with numerous discussion threads popping up, debating the merits of this so-called “heavy” moderation vs. the laissez-faire approach of u/skeen. Popular users, like The Facebook God, who often posts memes and images of his own page, have expressed their displeasure. God even made a video, which has racked up 16,000+ views.
Then, of course, you have the classic “Hitler upset” meme, in which the Fuhrer freaks out about the new mods’ anti-humor policies. “What is this? Do they not realize the #1 tool for getting kids to question their faith is satire?”
<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/pXXnt3jm6UQ” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>
u/skeen has also accused the new moderators of deleting dissenting comments and posts, though we have not been able to verify this independently (it is possible many of these discussions have been moved to a new subreddit called r/AtheismPolicy).
Although moderator u/jij declined to comment for this story, he tells Mashable he stands by all of his public statements. Of note is a wiki page on the subreddit in which he explains the backstory of u/skeen’s removal:
/u/tuber indicated that he hadn’t heard from skeen in a long time … I made a lot of changes to CSS … the sidebar submit buttons, the topic bars, etc. In all cases I tried to avoid direct moderation because I was aware that it was the one big thing skeen was against.
Skeen did make an appearance, to make his famous policy reminder submission, and in it questioning some of my changes … I’m not sure what he really thought, because he didn’t contact me or tuber … or reply to my messages after that, or in the comments of his submission. 3 more months went by.
Finally, one day, skeen appeared and wanted to talk! I was *ecstatic*. Maybe he wanted to take an active role! … I created a private mod sub for us so we could discuss stuff, skeen and tuber accepted the invite, things were looking up! … then he disappeared again … not answering any of the other threads I made. I messaged him several times after this … I even asked the admins if they knew of a way to contact him (they didn’t answer me, and I honestly figured they wouldn’t … privacy and all). That was 7 months ago, the next time I heard from him was after he was removed as a mod.
Moderator u/tuber could not be reached for comment, but he recently issued a public explanation for their actions and an apology to users for the upheaval:
Skeen had been completely inactive as a mod for over 9 months, had actively discouraged any mod actions from us and had prohibited the addition of more mods to share the workload. While that may seem like a noble goal, a subreddit with over 2 million users simply can’t function like that.
We felt that in order to move forward, change was needed. As per reddit policy, skeen’s long inactivity meant that the admins understood our position and removed him as a mod.
As we had been discussing for a long time, we felt that a small amount of moderation could improve the quality of the subreddit. We’ve never tried to get rid of memes. We simply wanted to try and create a better balance of content that catered to all users. While it shouldn’t be the case, it’s a simple reality of user-generated websites that images have an unfair advantage when it comes to gaining attention. We simply wanted to even the playing the field.
Reddit’s general manager Erik Martin confirmed to Mashable that r/atheism’s new mods have complied with Reddit’s policies about inactivity and the need for moderation.
“What is someone supposed to do if a moderator doesn’t log on for half a year? There are mods for a reason,” says Martin. “They can be good or they can be bad, but subreddits — especially giant ones — need mods to remove things like spam, personal information, and other site-wide, rule-breaking stuff, regardless of their content policies.” The company does not plan to intervene, despite u/skeen’s request for reinstatement. Unless the new mods acquiesce, it seems r/atheism’s creator will never regain his privileges.
Because much of the discussion and complaining has shifted over to r/AtheismPolicy, and a bit of time has passed, r/Atheism itself has cooled down. The sub is no longer filled with thumbnails from QuickMeme and screenshots of Facebook. In the words of u/superspacebar, “Just look how beautiful /r/atheism/new is without all those karma-whoring Carl Sagan pictures. We have actual quality content!”
In time, only the community can decide whether the sub is more valuable.
Thank you. TiA