Editing a Wikipedia page never came to mind until this semester, I always thought it was for certified experts. But in reality, Wikipedia is a collection of information from regular people, like me, who just happen to know a thing or two about certain topics. For this reason, it truly embodies the idealized phenomenon of collective intelligence. Wiki pages give regular people the ability to share previously useless information with the world, making rote memorization unnecessary. This type of website encourages democratic online participation and web use. As Danny said earlier in the semester, I think Wikipedia is a great starting point for topical research. So, it is important to keep its information up to date.
For example, I updated the social news Wikipedia page by adding affordances websites such as Digg, Fark, Reddit, and Delicious give users and their resulting benefits to the community. I also added some information to the general descriptions of Digg and Reddit on this page under “Popular Social News Sites,” including features of the comment section, the social networking aspect of Digg, and the ability to earn “karma” on Reddit. This addition gives users a better understanding of the functions of social news sites.
I updated Digg’s page on Wikipedia to include the websites ability to delete stories it does not feel fitting for the audience. While it doesn’t happen often, users have complained about this recently and in the past. I also noted the social networking aspect of the website, due to the personalized profile, the ability to follow and have followers, and the story view tracker.
Wikipedia also encouraged me, as a view of this page, to discuss the option of merging this page with Digg Patriot’s. While I believe Digg Patriots could be included on Digg’s Wikipedia page, as a recent phenomenon on the website, not all people who use Digg, use it to express politically conservative ideas. I noted this accordingly.
Unfortunately, the Reddit Wikipedia page is Semi-locked and my account status prevents me from adding relevant information. However, if I was able to post, I would add that Reddit downvotes stories until they’re gone. This means each vote is weighted equally. Also, Redditors have the ability to earn Karma for their active participation and involvement. Lastly, as part and parcel to the community aspect of Reddit, users often celebrate their “Reddit birthday,” something I found particularly interesting. I would compile these aspects of the website to the social news wiki page, but some of the detail is irrelevant to a general overview.
Although I posted these additions a few days ago, they are still there! I was expecting them to be changed, or deleted, but to my surprise and delight, they have not been touched, which is a very good feeling.
Social news sites, especially Reddit, have been known to be very involved with the community, donating money and time, as well as spreading awareness for certain social issues. Reddit also has the tendency to be very trendy, meaning users see something, post something similar, and upvote stories of that nature up to the front page.
In my time on Reddit, I have seen many philanthropic deeds occur due to the generosity of users. They have raised thousands of dollars for charities and political candidates, as well as personal causes. Two weeks ago I saw a post of an under-privileged family who was able to pay for extensive, life-saving surgery because of donations from Redditors. In this specific case, a young boy survived a malicious form of cancer. The family posted a picture of him, after making a full recovery, of him holding a sign saying “thank you Reddit.” They said they would pay it forward.
However, last Sunday, 4/12 (or 4/12 because Reddit has many European followers), a philanthropic trend swept the website’s front page. It started with a user claiming to be the CEO of a major corporation and in the spirit of Christmas, he was going to donate $1 to a local homeless shelter for every upvote his post received. After a few hours passed, there were eleven posts asking for upvotes to make donations on the front page alone.
This is pretty inspiring and quite generous of Redditors, but many had a problem with this. First, many believed it should be kept to subcategories of Reddit, most noteable to r/atheism (because most users do not believe in religion, so most charitable causes and posts of that nature go there). Others were concerned because there was no proof that users who proposed this would actually follow through. Lastly some believed that the front page was for entertainment, humor, or news stories, not charitable causes.
A few days later I saw this image on the front page, illustrating the distaste for that trend. While this trend hasn’t occurred since that day, users would like to always keep that example of Reddit usage in mind. It leads me to question what other Reddit users like about the website, and their underlying motivations for participation.
The unfortunate incident at Virginia Tech on Thursday afternoon broke the little confidence students had after the previous campus shooting in 2007. The American and International support via media coverage and social networking sites was overwhelming. However, the Reddit community really embraced the victims of this tragedy in a more personally touching way. Not only were several news based stories upvoted to the front page within hours, in addition to “keeping VT in our thoughts” posts and comments, but they users were able to personally communicate with and comfort a victim.
As I have mentioned previously, the Reddit community is very close, sharing similar perspectives, humor, and ideas. They communicate more and have more personal tendencies than other social news sites. Subreddit category r/AMA illustrates this well. AMA, or IAMA, stands for “ask me anything.” A member will often share a fact or personal experience unique to them and their life and welcome other users to ask them questions. The original poster will answer any questions he or she may have, which encourages dialogue through comments.
On Thursday, after the VT shooting, a student posted “AMA Virginia Tech Student currently locked in his room.” He included many pictures in his post for people to explore. Users asked him many questions and conversed about the tragic happenings that had just occurred in real time, which I found really interesting. However, in addition to this, they also comforted the student. One user informs the student that finals are cancelled and they proceed to joke about that fact. Others give him ironically funny advice to cheer him up. This, in effect, exemplified a symbiotically beneficial relationship I had not previously seen on Reddit. This really piqued my interest and demonstrated an entirely new way to use Reddit and other social news sites.
As previously mentioned, social news sites act as information aggregated crowd sourcing. Therefore, it relies a lot on its members to actively post stories and participate by up or downvoting and commenting. By doing so, you are often rewarded with karma (on Reddit) and awards (on Digg) to encourage users. After some research, it looks like active membership on Digg has been declining, which piqued my interest after receiving this week’s Digg Digest.
Digg Digest is a weekly newsletter emailed to members automatically upon registration, unless you unsubscribe after receiving the first one. I found this to be an interesting aspect of differentiation between Digg and Reddit because Reddit does not use this technique. The email includes: current top stories, top stories of the week, and staff picks, which isn’t available on the website.
I originally thought this was a tactic to keep Diggers active, to keep it fresh in their mind and to encourage participation. However, it goes further than that. It gives members a sense of community beyond what they feel on the site. It is an increased form of integration with the website and the community; one no longer needs to find news or entertainment because with this aspect of Digg, it literally comes to them.
Because there is no “boss” of Reddit or Digg, it is up to the users to decide what material they would like to see. And because each website forms a type of community, I do not think it would be possible for those type of posts to get enough upvotes to make it even remotely close to front page because that is not what users want to see. Users, as much as the creators of the website, want to maintain its image, as it is a reflection of them as users.
So while it is completely do-able, it rarely happens. When it does, it is far from the average user’s public eye.
As I peruse Reddit and Digg this evening, procrastinating the studying for my Art History exam tomorrow, I noticed some distinct differences about the “culture” surrounding each website that I think would be helpful to point out to the rest of the class.
Digg features a story submitted 21 hours and 6 minutes ago, but the comments range from 3 hours and 20 minutes to 2 hours and 29 minutes. There are 7 comments total out of the 2,138 people who viewed it.
However, on Reddit, a similar story with the same time frame of 3 hours accumulated 569 comments, although you cannot tell how many views it’s had.
I think this illustrates an important point about the uses of each website; the communities surrounding each site are very different in demographics, intent, and customary practices.
While Digg users have a ratio of almost 1:1 men to women, they are much younger and much wealthier than the average Reddit user, who is almost always male, late twenties to early forties, with a middle range income. For these reasons, in addition to the layout of the site, users treat the websites differently, and log on for different reasons. The Reddit community is tight-knit and leaves short witty comments on various stories. Digg users are more distant and browse a few stories; when they comment, they tend to be longer, more thought out messages.
I’d like to leave you with a screen shot of the Reddit page last night around midnight. It shows user “seriouslydave” commenting on another comment containing the words “seriously Dave.” He posted the joke and others knew he was probably excited about it, so they said so. The third user decides to log off, but comments on the comment to say he or she likes the jokes by saying “well done… good night.” I think this string of comments really portrays the environment of Reddit.
For my practicum presentation, I decided to explore my previously unchartered territory of social news sites. These news aggregates, such as Reddit, Digg, Delicious, Chime.in, Fark, etc., let the people chose the information and content they think is most important for other users to see.
This mode of Internet production and consumption gives the power to the average person, which eliminates personal and corporate agendas, while increasing transparency. In theory, this sounded like a great idea before I got started doing my research. After many hours spent perusing these websites, I have concluded that it is still a unique, helpful, and beneficial mode of Internet “produsing,” however, there are a few implications with its actualization.
For example, I began to notice that entertainment, humor, news, and news commentary all started to become intertwined. While users can choose to enter subreddits (/r/) or specific newsrooms on Digg, the front page is a culmination of whatever the most users find most interesting. I struggle with this because while having the authroty to chose the news is empowering, there is something to be said for education value of pure news. Stories can also be dense with political bias and incorrect information.
Stemming back to the public television debates from a few years back, people need to know what is going on in the world, but are they interested? What are the ethical implications of that? Will young adults begin reaching out to these kinds of websites to get their news, or has it already happened? What would be the consequence of that?
Real time example: you can see my top 7 “news stories” on Reddit and six of them are entertainment. SOPA legislation slips quietly into the seventh spot.