For the last several days, I’ve been studying Reddit. I’ve been visiting the site daily for two years now but it was only recently that I actually started studying the site. What makes it tick? Why is it so successful in an arena that has eaten up so many for so long? Why does it continue to get stronger while others get weaker?
To understand Reddit, just as when trying to understand anything, one must find the underlying attribute that makes the rest work. The answer is, of course, “a combination of things” but just as Phaedrus in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance couldn’t accept the obvious answers about “quality” until the end of the book, I too could not accept the combination theory. It isn’t that I don’t believe that there are many factors. I just believe that there has to be one component that sets Reddit apart.
There has to be a secret ingredient.
Before we discuss “effort” I want to take a look at the other things that work towards Reddit’s success.
The Other Candidates
There are parts of Reddit that would definitely qualify as best attributes of the site to people. Everyone who uses Reddit has reasons. Some of those reason may include:
- The Comments – Those who check out the strings of comments on submissions and posts know that they can be epic. In many cases, they’re smarter and/or more entertaining than the content itself. No other community outside of 4chan can even remotely compete with the level of commenting that happens at Reddit.
- The Subreddits – As Anon mentioned in a previous post, “Since it is so easy to edit your subreddit subscriptions, and most people do it, there really is no “front page” to worry about gaming your way onto in order to be seen by every user of the site.”
- The Content – Many old-school Reddit users would say that the quality of the content has deteriorated over the last year. This may be true, but it’s still much higher quality than similar sites. Reddit tends to be an early “viral maker” for many of the memes. While the site is rarely the original source, it’s the jumping-off-point for some of the best content out there that otherwise would never have received mass exposure.
There are others, but those three are clear differentiators between Reddit and other social news sites. For me, it simply comes down to effort.
It doesn’t take great depths of research to find examples of the community putting in effort. Some do it for the karma. Some do it for the lulz. The motives aren’t as important as the contributions. Here are some examples.
Reddit user Majupra submitted this. It’s not simply a quick Photoshop job where someone replaced names of Monopoly properties with random Reddit keywords. This was well-thought-out with categories grouped together nicely and clever insertion of insider information such as Reddit Gold and France is Bacon that nobody outside of the community would understand.
It was rewarded with suggestions and praise to the tune of nearly 1000 comments.
As ohmonsieur demonstrates, “effort” doesn’t have to take hours. It can be as simple as thinking of something clever, tying it in with a current event, and shooting a picture of it.
Lessons learned, whether important lessons about disease or struggles or simple lessons such as Googling before buying something populated the site every day. Here, matthewmichael shared a quick experience he’d had where he saved himself some money. The share was a quick reminder to not jump on Craigslist just because something breaks.
Was it a ton of effort? No. Is this level of sharing present in other social news communications? Not even close. Again, you don’t have to search long and hard for examples. Everything listed above is all from the last 24 hours.
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Many will argue that the other aspects of Reddit are more important than the effort. I would ask them if they ever read any of the hundreds of Rage comics posted daily. The fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu category alone accounts for many hours of Redditor labor poured into sharing real or imagined life situations to make people laugh or simply to make a point.
Reddit is a community of effort. The amazing comments and quality content are simply byproducts. It’s a pride thing.