I enjoyed writing The Cost to Connect - Internet Prices Around the World. (Doing the research? Not so much.)
I posted it to /r/technology on reddit with the title "TIL the best Internet values across the world are in Romania (1 Gbps download @ $0.02/Mbps) and Japan (2 Gbps @ $0.02/Mbps), Greenland has the worst ($65/Mbps), and the US/UK are in the middle." It was fun. Lots of good discussion for a few hours. Upvotes were moving in a positive direction and never wavered.
And then it happened. Something happened. As I was trying to reply to a comment, I continued to get a 403 error whenever I hit save, which I didn't understand. So I refreshed the page, only to see all links to reply no longer appeared. How odd. I checked my messages to make sure I was still logged in, finding:
What first struck me is how the steady stream of upvotes and comments came to a screeching halt. After 417 upvotes, 132 downvotes ("75% like it"), and 75 comments, it was as if the post disappeared into the memory hole. I've never been a moderator on reddit so I don't know if they have a way to pull it into oblivion, but it was interesting to watch the momentum fall to its immediate death nonetheless. Picture yourself falling off a cliff at Mach-5. Splat.
The rule it appears I broke is this: "Try not to editorialize the title (modify so as to change meaning significantly / or use a misleading title)." Of course, as any good redditor, I read the rules before posting and, although the article's title didn't match the title I used, I certainly didn't think for a moment that my chosen title was outside the boundaries described. TIL used to be used in lots of places on reddit. It wasn't like I wrote "Porn stars are connecting to the Internet, and you should too!" My chosen title did not change the meaning of the article, nor did it appear misleading. And "try," by definition, certainly isn't defined as "you are required." So I respectfully wrote the moderators "I can't imagine which rule you believe I broke, but I'm interested in hearing if you don't mind telling me." The response?
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend;
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
...I wanted to immediately make amends. After all, I'm a gentleman and a gentleman doesn't walk away from a mistake without first trying to make it right.
The response was thus: "Of course you do. It's third in the sidebar." And that was that. Forever exiled. Sure, I could simply create a new user, but I'll abstain. Although I'd like to be able to post in /r/technology again, as it's a topic I enjoy reading and writing about, it's not critical for my well-being. I can take my toys and play elsewhere.
Besides, I'd rather discuss the implications which, to me, are far more interesting than the drama. (Putting aside for a moment the knowledge that drama gets you to the front page.)
I don't know what it's like to perform the duties of a moderator on a site like reddit. It's my understanding that such roles are voluntary and unpaid, which certainly reflects a level of commitment and dedication. I also don't know much about creating rules for a large community that, on the one hand, provide a conducive environment in which to share information and engage in discussion and, on the other, confine such sharing and discussion so conformity is adhered. Subreddits, and communities in general, don't want an "anything goes" type of environment. They want rules; and they want rulers to take action against those who go outside the guardrails. "There ought to be a law..." How often is it said? None of this Wild West stuff - what good is there for anyone in that?
I became a redditor many years ago when the site was young. I was part of the exodus of Digg users when their model and rules changed. Reddit was great back then - dare I say amazing. Tons of intelligent discussions. Lots of new things learned every hour of the day. With respect to the name of this site, there was a ton of value for me in those days. Ah, the good ol' days.
And then it happened. Something happened. I can't pinpoint when it was, or if there was some trigger. But reddit changed. People were getting banned everywhere from (IMO) the most innocuous posts and comments. There was vast censorship. So many interesting links were removed. Shadow-banning seemed to be the norm. Single-serving, easily consumable content went through the roof. Although there were pockets of interesting content, and with sincere humbleness, reddit became a community of dumb. Sure, there were (and are) still some intelligent, thoughtful people on reddit. But looking at the front page, you almost wouldn't know it. I left for quite some time and, only recently, came back to see what had changed.
I'm not convinced popularity is contributing to its demise. I don't believe it's the masses that have driven its quality down. It's said that a fish stinks from the head. It is a community's leadership who leads. I'm not in-the-know of how moderators get assigned or elected on reddit. I'm not aware of the rules moderators have to follow (if there are any other than reddit's user agreement which applies to all). And I'm not willing to become sour grapes over being banned.
It doesn't matter that the karma spigot was shut off. What I think matters is this: the article was intentionally prevented from reaching the front page (or, if it was already there considering the upvote velocity, was removed). It was prevented from reaching a front page littered with images of the (somewhat) funny but mundane and banal. All of you who didn't get the opportunity to read it or get to engage in the discussion (because you didn't know it was there) are suffering the brunt of my mistake. (Perhaps suffering is too strong a word. Missing out? Is that better?) Instead, you are relegated to memes and (IMHO) less thoughtful content. I mistakenly misunderstood the rules and was punished. Regardless of the punishment's severity relative to the infraction, the responsibility and consequences are mine alone to accept.
But, in the end, it is you who were punished as well. Is that fair?
Note: Before you ask, no, I will not reveal the moderator's name. The moderator who banned me did what he/she thought appropriate. Personal attacks on the moderator would be inappropriate. Please let's focus on the why and the consequences to you - not the who and the consequences to me.