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Could Reddit Be the World’s Most Influential Website?

Could Reddit Be the World’s Most Influential Website?

Started in 2005, and currently owned by Condé Nast, Reddit boasts more than 1 billion page views each month. Though Reddit was once considered fairly obscure, the site is now making waves and becoming quite well known.

Reddit is a powerhouse, and has managed to maintain and build on its identity even with such massive growth.   For many reasons it represents a new evolution we’ve yet to see in other online communities. What follows is an overview of just what makes this site so remarkable.

Consider, as you read on,  the potential of Reddit and sites similar to it that aggregate and organize the content of the Internet to become more than just places to be entertained or to learn. The reality is that Reddit is beginning to shape and influence the world in ways that are only now becoming apparent, bringing a higher order of organization to content online, and allowing for an evolution in the potential of collaboration.

So, without further ado, here are our top 19 reasons why Reddit is so unbelievably awesome.

1. Being on Reddit is like sitting in a group discussion of thousands of moderately intelligent people, interested in the topic at hand.

The users with the best input have the loudest voices and take turns while not speaking over each other. This is the result of the voting based comment system that floats the most voted for comments to the top of the thread. Many front page submissions regularly have more than 1,000 comments with some submissions reaching over 9,000 comments (yes, really). Like this submission which asked, ““What stupid question have you always been too embarrassed to ask, but would like answered?”

Questions range from the silly, (What is on the other side of a belly button?) to fascinating, (Is there anything resembling rhyming in American Sign Language?) to incredibly puzzling (What do you see when you look through a one-way mirror directly towards a regular mirror in a naturally lit room made of mirrors?).

2. Reddit is a magnifying glass of the Internet.

Reddit is arguably the largest social news aggregator.  Without Reddit,  countless great sites, blogs, articles, journals, videos, images and other pieces of online content would go unnoticed and unshared, lost in obscurity and never given the ability to be seen by tens of thousands.  Reddit enables the individual, and gives literally anyone who has something interesting enough to say the ability to reach millions.

While the same could be said for news aggregators like Digg, Mixx, and countless other clones, what sets Reddit apart is its size.  With millions of active users who submit thousands of pieces of new content each day, there is no place like Reddit for finding the newest and most interesting stuff online.  The title of Reddit’s home page is “the front page of the Internet,” a title many would argue it has decisively earned.

3. Reddit allows for intense and evolving communities of special interests.

Reddit has amongst its ranks some of the most active niche communities available online. The size of some subReddits rivals or exceeds the size of the largest mainstream forums and groups about the same topic, making these subReddits the largest gathering places on the Internet for many topics.

Many of the following are among the most active places online for their given topic:

  1. (Atheism Topics) Atheism453,000+ members
  2. (Marijuana Topics) Trees180,000+ members
  3. (Fitness Topics) Fitness120,000+ members
  4. (Female Centric Topics) TwoXchromosomes - 71,000+ members
  5. (Mens Fashion Topics) MaleFashionAdvice - 67,000+ members
  6. (Dubstep Music Topics) Dubstep 40,000+ members
  7. (LGBT Issues Topics) LGBT 36,000+ members
  8. (OWS Topics) occupywallstreet30,000+ members
  9. (My Little Pony Cartoon Topics) mylittlepony 19,000+ members

4. Reddit is highly collaborative and easily spawns or expands collaborative efforts.

Group projects, concepts, and ideas can grow and be possible through the cooperation of like-minded people.

One example of how Reddit does this exceptionally well is RedditGifts.com – an initiative spawned on Reddit that has become the largest ever gift exchange program. This last year more than 39,000 Redditors exchanged gifts with each other. In total,  $1,073,939.88 in gifts were exchanged with an average gift price of $25.68.

Another great example was when the Reddit community collaborated to influence an online poll being used by Greenpeace to name a whale that was part of its Great Whale Trail Expedition, an initiative to raise awareness about whales threatened by the Japanese Fisheries Agency. The whale’s name was to be chosen in an online poll with the name with the highest number of votes being chosen. The selection of names were a mix of meaningful unique words like Anahi and Kaimana, with an extra silly name put into the mix as an afterthought. The name: Mister Splashy Pants.

The poll was made known to the Reddit community, and from there Reddit took charge. They easily influenced the poll, and Mister Splashy Pants won by a solid margin.

5. Reddit Helps Determine The News Cycle.

It is quite clear that reporters, journalists, and editors in local, regional, national, and even international regularly read Reddit. It is no coincidence that that stellar story seen on Reddit this morning was featured on Rachel Maddow that same evening.

Some examples of how journalists use and recommend Reddit:

  1. Reddit a Fire Hose of Internet Ideas
  2. Use Reddit to Find Story Ideas
  3. How Reddit Controls the Internet News Cycle

6. Reddit is the ultimate investigator.

The term ““Human Flesh Search” is the term used when a large group of individuals collaborate on digging up information on one specific topic or person.  Through the power of a common goal and crowd-sourced effort, some absolutely incredible feats of detective work can happen. Reddit has proven itself to be among the most powerful ““human flesh search” engines that has ever existed.

Just a few examples include:

  1. Reddit users tracking down the birth family of an adopted Redditor
  2. Reddit uncovers a long lost childhood mystery
  3. Reddit helps find incredibly obscure video
  4. Redditors find individual responsible for Wikileaks DDOS

7. Reddit is a meme maker and trend setter.

A meme is defined as:

““An element of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.”

On Reddit, original content that resonates and lends itself to imitation is created all the time,  in large quantities. Because of this, Reddit has become the birthplace to many new memes, some of which have gone on to reach near mainstream recognition.

Examples of memes started by Reddit:

  1. Troll Quotes
  2. Cuil Theory
  3. If you watch x backwards, it’s about y
  4. Birthday Dog
  5. Anti-Zombie Fortress
  6. I’m with Coco
  7. Zach Anner
  8. Waffles? Don’t you mean Carrots?
  9. Bearsharktopus
  10. Keanu Reeves
  11. Inglip

8. Reddit is a life saver (literally).

One of the most impressive sub-Reddits is the community at r/suicidewatch. These selfless people are there to talk to those who feel they have nothing left to live for. The community is certainly responsible for saving lives, though it is uncertain how many.

With nearly 9,000 subscribers, this community is arguably one of the largest groups in the world dedicated to suicide prevention. It is most certainly the largest 100% unfunded, 100% volunteer suicide prevention group in existence.

Here is the story of one Redditor, who planned to die and was saved by r/suicidewatch in the most dire moment.

9. Reddit is an idea engine, giving birth to new ideas constantly.

Reddit is a naming machine, and its users know it.  Although the Reddit community is often astutely aware when they’re being used for crowd-sourcing, nobody seems to mind helping people come up with names for things.  Reddit has helped people name everything from pets, to bands, to even kebab shops.   Reddit is especially good at quips and puns, as evidenced by a thread about Naming a Bar.

Another good example of Reddit’s penchant for creating and sorting ideas, you’ll find it in their treatment of inventions.  If you’ve ever had an idea for the next ““great invention,” you’re not alone.  Redditors have waxed eloquent a number of times about their invention ideas that would change the world.  To be fair, Redditors are also pretty honest about the practicality of their ideas as well.  As evidenced by this thread discussing the phenomenon of invention ideas that seemed great at first glance, but quickly fell apart under scrutiny.

10. Reddit includes experts from nearly all fields, vocations, talents, and specialties. Many of whom share their inside knowledge freely.


Though the exact number hasn’t been released, there are undoubtedly several million active Reddit users contributing to the more than roughly 20 million daily page views. Among these users are a sizable number of very noteworthy Redditors. Some are highly-trained experts, well respected intellectuals, actors, celebrities, sports stars and many more.

Just a few of the known Reddit celebrity accounts can be found below:

  1. Louis CK
  2. Wil Wheaton
  3. Ken Jennings
  4. Felicia Day
  5. Zach Braff
  6. Neil deGrasse Tyson
  7. Don Lemon
  8. Joe Rogan
  9. Jimmy Kimmel
  10. Steve Vai
  11. Stephen Colbert
  12. Scientists and engineers at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory

11. Reddit allows for in-depth discussion over topics that otherwise would never ever be talked about in a group way.

In many ways Reddit can be like hanging out with a bunch of friends. While this often leads to long threads on the pointless and inane, sometimes it yields really interesting discussions over topics that many have contemplated, but never discussed in a public forum.

Here are a few examples enabled by Reddit:

  1. Cuil Theory
  2. The Merits of Sitting or Standing

If you’ve never experienced the joy of a “group joke” where everyone contributes to an ever-increasingly absurd list of pun’s, you’re missing out.   Reddit is famous for pun threads, and they tend to emerge in the most unexpected places.  One great example of this happening can be found here.

12. Reddit provides an unparalleled opportunity for research into sociology, groupthink, hivemind, memology, and self-selected groups.

Because of the ability of Reddit to form large groups of like-minded individuals in subReddits, an opportunity for studying these groups has been created.  For regular readers, it becomes obvious that the ““personality” of different subReddits is not the same across the board. Some subReddits become known for certain types of behaviors or attitudes. Although there haven’t been any academic studies of these communities, members often take the time to set up surveys to quantify themselves, often with very interesting results.

One example was a demographic survey done in r/fittit, the most popular fitness based subReddit.   One interesting takeaway from the survey is that 50% of the community is single.

Another, more specific example can be found in the subReddit for transgender people r/asktransgender. Members of this community set up a survey themselves to document their demographic and psychographic profiles. The result of which were then compiled into an infographic report based on a on a large sample of transgender individual that provides very interesting insights into this niche community.  One interesting takeaway is that of those surveyed, 14% consider themselves ““heterosexual” meaning they are attracted exclusively to the gender opposite to the one they identify with.

13. Reddit is a virtual confessional. It prompts people to tell their secrets.

On Reddit, you can be 100% anonymous if you desire. At the same time, if you have an interesting story to tell, you can get a great deal of exposure. This has led to Reddit being used as a sort of confessional: a place where deep secrets can be told to a larger audience.  The r/ama subReddit has been home to many confessions including the following stunners:

  1. 9,000+ people telling their darkest secret desires
  2. Several admitted psychopaths
  3. A military whistleblower
  4. Redditors who have killed somebody

14. Reddit is like always having the wittiest, funniest people in the room.

Collective intelligence determines the best comments and they rise to the top of all threads.  Because of the way Reddit is set up, comments can become content that is voted on and recognized on its own merit. In many instances, user comments have become some of the most talked about and engaging pieces of content on Reddit.

A great example of this is a response that was posted in response to the askReddit question:  ““Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?”   User Prufrock451 posted a response in the form of a short story.  The community liked the story so much, it resulted in Prufrock (real name James Erwin) continuing with the story and beginning a subReddit dedicated to the expansion of the idea. The subReddit currently has more than 8,800 people subscribed. Even more spectacular, management at Warner Brothers took notice of the short story (likely because someone internal is a Redditor) and the massive interest it garnered on Reddit and bought the rights to make it into a film.

15. Reddit can celebrate individual victory or achievement in a BIG way.

When someone accomplishes something great, getting accolades or getting noticed beyond your friends can be hard. On Reddit, when someone does something spectacular, it is often recognized in a big way.

One great example can be found in a post on a man who built a scanning electron microscope from scratch.  Reddit’s reaction can be seen here.  Another example is a great demonstration of how kind-hearted the Reddit community can be (if their love for dogs and kitties didn’t already make this clear).  Redditors are some of the first to applaud those who are kind to others.

16. Reddit can be a source of power and revolution for the people.

If one idea resonates with a community, or one activity, the community can rally behind it with EXTRAORDINARY power.

Many political movements have grown or were even born here. Reddit users take credit for starting the Rally to Restore Sanity, allegedly influencing its hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to participate. Thousands of Redditors even attended the rally. Reddit has also been useful for mobilizing supporters of the Occupy movement.

The community was among the first to protest SOPA and Reddit was a key player in the SOPA blackout:

  1. Reddit Successfully Pressures Rep. Paul Ryan
  2. Reddit Has Gone Mad with Power
  3. Is Reddit a Community or a Platform?
  4. A “thank you” to the reddit community from the EFF

17. Reddit encourages interaction in a completely unique way

One of the unique aspects of the Reddit community is the idea of ““karma.”  Karma is a system of points that are given or taken away from users based on how much the community likes or dislikes the content they submit or the comments they make. Although ““karma” is worthless in a monetary sense, it has a social value for Redditors. The more karma a user has, the higher regard or esteem they are generally shown within the community. Gaining high levels of karma has become important to many Redditors and is an incentive for participation.

Karma is a really interesting case study in ““social currency” and has clearly demonstrated that non-monetary incentives can indeed spur real community growth.

In addition to encouraging participation, karma also influences the behavior of Redditors. By having something to gain or lose through their interaction, Redditors monitor and modify their behavior in ways similar to how they might in real life. Instead of dealing with social ramifications for bad behavior, on Reddit, they deal with consequences of karma.

This system of social accountability is somewhat unique online, and Reddit is certainly a great example of how this sort of system can help sculpt the behavior of an online community.

18. Reddit is perhaps the best existing example of an entirely Internet based culture.

Large enough to have created an ethos that transcends single topic areas, this is different than forums or other communities because the constituents of the group aren’t bound by anything extremely specific.

As mentioned, there are individual subcultures that exist in subReddits, but Reddit users have a specific ethos that is more or less true of the large majority of Redditors. There is such consistency between users opinions on topics that Reddit can generally be characterized as having taken on specific positions on controversial issues.

Briefly, on a whole, Redditors are generally:

  1. Anti Religion, many Atheists
  2. Pro LGBT rights
  3. Pro Marijuana Legalization
  4. Supports Occupy Wallstreet
  5. Supports Wikileaks
  6. Loves Technology/Gadgets
  7. Pro Education Reform
  8. Pro Church/State Separation
  9. Anti SOPA & Protect IP, Anti RIAA
  10. Pro Geek Culture

The Reddit zeitgiest can be so consistent and homogenous that it has become the subject of some amount of lampooning. EncyclopediaDramatica has done a particularly scathing and funny (though often times true) review of Redditors.

19. Reddit is kind and generous.

Reddit has done literally hundreds of good deeds. Some of them small, some of them very large. Here are links to some  ““good deeds” big and small:

  1. One Redditor Finds Another’s Long-Lost Art
  2. Reddit Community Saves Small Business
  3. Reddit Buys Young Woman A Hearing Aid
  4. Reddit Helps Make Dream Come True for Dying Man
  5. Reddit Correctly Diagnoses Fellow Redditor’s Cause of Severe Depression, Saves Her Life
  6. Reddit Brings Family Music Heirloom to Life
  7. Reddit Helps Pay For Member’s Mother’s Funeral Costs
  8. Redditors Give Girl with Huntington’s Disease Given Shopping Spree
  9. Reddit Community Donates Over $185,000 to Haiti Relief

Conclusion

While the future of Reddit remains unknown, its example has clearly shown the benefits of crowdsourced content curation. The Internet has a tremendous amount to offer in terms of sheer content, but the value of that offering is multiplied exponentially when that content is organized and rendered by a motivated and thoughtful crowd. In the future, we will likely see many permutations of the system pioneered by Reddit, likely with great benefit to us all.

For the reasons outlined above, and undoubtedly countless more, we would argue that Reddit is indeed the most influential site online.  What do you think?

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Comments

  1. Matt Goffrey says:

    What I found incredibly interesting is that after a long article about the benefits of reddit I don’t see a reddit sharing button. It seems odd to wax philosophic about how awesome reddit is and then include only twitter, linkedin, G+, Stumble, and Facebook sharing … where’s the reddit sharing button?

    • Chris Winfield says:

      Fair point Matt. The reality is that as a blog that foc