I owe a great deal of gratitude to Reddit. I’ve received a fair amount of traffic from them in the past, as my “What Men’s Magazines Are Really About” post maintains a position among the top posts of all time to the OneY subreddit. I created original content that I knew the subreddit would enjoy, I submitted a link to it, and I’ve been able to enjoy the referral traffic for my work.
Additionally, my satire about the social media intern who died of butt bacon was a joke at the expense of Reddit, and I still receive occasional traffic to it from Something Awful, Fark, and other various message boards. So again, I have to thank Reddit for that.
I’ve submitted a great number of Modern Primate links to Reddit, along with some to Slacktory, to 11 Points, and other blogs that I like. And I’ve spent countless hours taking part in conversations on /r/minecraft and other subreddits I’m interested in. My account is nearly three years old.
But still, because of my habit of linking to my own site where I post my own original content, I’ve been labeled a spammer and have been banned. I’ve messaged the admins twice in the last two weeks, but haven’t gotten any response. It seems that the only way I could avoid this is if I were to relinquish any rights to my original content and post it exclusively to Imgur.
In effect, Reddit punishes the creation of original content, and rewards content theft.
Last week, Nick Douglas wrote this excellent piece about how Reddit and Imgur don’t want content creators to retain rights to their work, mentioning the problems our mutual colleague The Frogman has had with being ripped off.
The Frogman commented on the article, raising a very interesting point.
Reddit and imgur want people to believe they are patient zero for all content. It was immaculately conceived there. I can’t tell you how many times I get someone from reddit telling me I stole something from reddit. One time someone told me I stole a picture of myself from reddit. They don’t add attribution because if people find out there are other places to get content, they might go there instead.
[Bold added for emphasis.]
I personally have no expectation of ever having my Reddit account reinstated. The two and a half years I sunk into making conversation under my real name have been undone by a few posts wherein I link to my own original creations when I should have been stealing others’ work and giving the traffic to Imgur. Being that I now have a better understanding of the site’s social capital, I realize that it’s only fitting that we’ve parted ways. My values (retaining credit and traffic for my creations) don’t mesh with the values of the community (keeping traffic on Reddit and Imgur exclusively).
Some may look at the situation from a standpoint of technological determinism and say that I should have no expectation of credit or traffic because if the platform is designed to reward content theft then it’s functioning as it is intended. From that same point of view there’s nothing wrong with 9gag, and BuzzFeed then blatantly reposting the same shit they’ve found on Reddit’s front page also without attribution. There’s no problem with any of this stuff losing all context. Except that then there’s nothing to incentivize the creation of original content.
But I try not to take a technologically deterministic approach. I take a “don’t be an asshole. Cite your sources” approach. I know it won’t get me any Reddit karma. But if that’s all I wanted, I’d be scouring the web for pictures of soldiers reunited with their dogs to repost. People love that.