Crowdsourcing sociology

21 October 2009 0

[Reddit][] has posts of all kinds, and comments to follow. This includes its fair share of navel gazing. But reddit’s penchant for self analysis has no lack of thoughtful points alongside mere complaining and in-jokes. This is doubly interesting in a recent (ongoing) discussion about the state of the site. One [user][] asked: Is [“reddiquette”][] or etiquette on Reddit [going the way of the dodo][dodo]? The top conversation is a typical reddit trail of wisecracks (this time about Reddit being a hipster that is “too cool” for Reddit these days). But following that is a sustained discussion of different comparable websites, [Eternal summer][Summer], and scaling issues. There’s an appeal to more participation and cynical retorts. One [particular post][post] on the general life cycle of online discussion forums [usernametaken6767][] summarizes this issue rather nicely:

> I’ve been using the internet since the mid-90s. Every single awesome community or interesting subculture on the net that I came across has eventually turned to utter crap due to an influx of people.

> It’s basically this: [Regression toward the mean][Regression]

> combined with this: [Eternal Summer][Summer]

> finally with a bit of this: [Online disinhibition][effect]

> edit: the only communities that haven’t turned to crap, I’ve found anyway, has been criss-crossing conversations on well-written specialist topic blogs. For instance, I’m interested in warfare. There are some excellent blogs and conversations on war out there that you would never find on digg, reddit, or other social voting type sites. This holds for most blogs I’ve read where the bloggers and the people discussing things have been specialists, authorities in the area, or “pro amateurs” from a variety of political and social positions. Free for all voting communities that are topically transient tend to eventually forment group think, whether blogs gathered around some topic tend to be more individualistic (individuals agreeing or disagreeing with each other).

But is it really that simple? People tend to do things online they wouldn’t otherwise, but this pushes people towards some general average. Those who resist, or have a pretty specific conception of the site tend to complain, but still participate. The best way to avoid a dull average gorup is to seek out smaller topic oriented forum or fragment that group into a smaller more ones where the mean is more aligned with their expectations.

Well, I guess that’s not _that_ simple. But it’s classic Reddit, and reminds me a lot of my theory of Lowest Common Denominator culture. The above quote received at least 71 points.

[Reddit]: http://www.reddit.com
[“reddiquette”]: http://www.reddit.com/help/reddiquette
[dodo]: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/9vygm/when_was_rediquette_forgotten_do_more_than_10_of/
[user]: http://www.reddit.com/user/CannedBabyDicks
[usernametaken6767]: http://www.reddit.com/user/usernametaken6767
[post]: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/9vygm/when_was_rediquette_forgotten_do_more_than_10_of/c0epawt

[Regression]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regression_toward_the_mean
[Summer]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September
[effect]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_disinhibition_effect

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