July 9, 2015

The top 3 comments at "Why We Shut Down Reddit’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ Forum" all say the same thing.

And it's not what the "Ask Me Anything" moderators were trying to say this NYT op-ed. They were all: "We work hard to maintain the forum... [We felt] anger at the way the company routinely demands that the volunteers and community accept major changes that reduce our efficiency and increase our workload." The most up-voted NYT comments are:

1. I really think you need to re-evaluate your unpaid contributions to this for-profit enterprise. It smells of exploitation, and you as an attorney certainly know the value of your time. You could, for example, volunteer your time in ways that would directly benefit people in your real-world community. Teach a child to read. Visit a shut-in. Talk to people in line at the grocery store instead ignoring everyone around you, staring at your phone. Do some pro bono legal work for a non-profit organization. Reddit makes lots of money, and needs to hire people and pay them a competitive market rate (with benefits) to do these jobs. Corporations skate along exploiting labor however they can, for the enrichment of their own bottom line, and you are enabling their greed. Think about it."

2. "I do feel sorry for these Reddit mods, but only because they've somehow been duped into working for free for a for-profit corporation. If a company can't even deign to pay you for your work what would give you the impression that they care about you at all? Perhaps their time would be better spent volunteering for a better cause."

3. "Volunteering 1000s of hours of your time to facilitate the growth of a for-profit organization - sounds like they have you brainwashed already, so why should they care about what you feel?"

43 comments:

Nonapod said...

It's amazing these commenters can type out replies at all while sitting so far up on their high horses.

Bob Ellison said...

I am still hopeful that the Professor will send me my cut of the Amazon profit, based on my brilliant commentary.

Matthew Sablan said...

I can't think of too many forums that pay their moderators, or if they do, those moderators are doing other, "real" jobs, with forum moderation being a low priority "when your email is down" responsibility. Very few places have the resources to make something like Reddit.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

So why are those New York Times commenters spending their time commenting on a NYT op-ed instead of volunteering their time in ways that would directly benefit people in their real-world community?

Ann Althouse said...

"I am still hopeful that the Professor will send me my cut of the Amazon profit, based on my brilliant commentary."

I'm putting my writing on a website owned by Google. When does Google pay me a salary?

Well, the answer is that I'd be writing and thinking about writing in a different way if the website paid me a salary. Someone once tried to hire me to write 2 or 3 posts a week on a website, and for that imposition on my mind, on my freedom, and on my time, the least I would accept was $60,000. I almost had it, but it fell through in the end. And that was for the best. It would have changed me. I'd have had to do posts that worked within a particular setting, which had a general subject matter. It would have been on my mind continually. What works for that?

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

As if the Reddit mods are too stupid to decide what is important and relevant in their own lives and how their time is best managed. As if they need some ignorant random busybody commenter at the NYT to tell them what to do. As if they are unaware until someone pointed it out that their time has value. Everyone has an opinion on how others should live, I guess.

tim maguire said...

The commenters here are right about the commenters there, but the commenters there are still right about the Reddit mods. The mods are freely volunteering and complaining about how they are being treated as volunteers. They care about Reddit and that's why they work for free, but still, if you're not happy, move on. It's not a job, it's a hobby.

They can go start their own Reddit.

William said...

I'm reminded of J. Kenneth Galbraith's criticism of capitalism in The Affluent Society. He felt that if people made too much money that they would just waste it by buying cars with chrome and elaborate tail fins. Far better that their excess money be taxed away and that those funds be used for the common weal. Look how much society has prospered from Stalinist housing projects and how grotesquely ugly the Chevy Bel Air now looks. What people spend their money or time on is generally worth purchasing or the expense of time. How other people spend your money or what they fell you to do, generally has less intrinsic value......When you volunteer at a hospital aren't you in some way enabling corrupt hospital administrators to draw even fatter pay checks.

themightypuck said...

Reddit may be for profit but it doesn't currently feel that way. If Reddit wanted moderators to shill for the corporation rather than take advantage of the corporation's resources for the mutual ends of the moderators and the corporation, it would be a different story.

In other news, people are mad that PewDiePie makes a lot of money on Youtube.

tim in vermont said...

If Reddit were somehow required to pay the volunteer mods, most of them would never have gotten the jobs. Those jobs would simply go to people with resumes, or simply better connected people than them.

I am not saying they aren't good at what they do, I don't know. But if they are really good at it, start their own blog, run ads, bring people with them! It's not that hard this freedom thing.

cubanbob said...

I can't believe anyone takes this crap seriously. Fools complaining that they are being played for fools while other fools are complaining about the other fools being played for fools. I can see college kids working as interns to get some work experience but this is ridiculous. Truly a fool cannot be kept away from folly.

kcom said...

So your theory is every time you have a complaint at work you should instead quit and find another job? That's a lot of career changes.

damikesc said...

The Left --- totally not exploiting suckers.

Like how Hillary is only hiring "volunteers" for her campaign and all now.

damikesc said...

How many of the commenters support hikes in the minimum wage? How many of them notice the logical disconnect in their position here and their position there?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Goodness but the idea of "for-profit" sure irks the NYT crowd. I think I understand a bit better now why the Clinton Global Initiative's shenanigans don't seem to bother those fine folks--it's got "not for profit" right there in the charter, man!
Easy solution for Reddit. Make themselves a charity--an educational organization. Make moderators explicitly volunteer, do some public education stuff, keep paying the employees the same salaries...it's win-win.

tim in vermont said...

So your theory is every time you have a complaint at work you should instead quit and find another job? That's a lot of career changes.

Is your theory that because you volunteered your time you now own part of the for profit corporation you volunteered to work for for free?

When I have a serious problem with my job, I leave it, yes. I once worked for a corporation than gave 4 figure Christmas bonuses ever year. One year they stopped giving them and there was a news item that the CEO received a 20 million dollar bonus.

I got pretty peeved and found another job that paid more and, it turned out, was better in every way. They had changed the terms of my employment unilaterally, and I rejected the new terms. I am sure the company got along fine without me, and I read later they were acquired by a large competitor, so I guess it was a win win.

Does that behavior seem weird to you?

tim in vermont said...

If I had listened to Democrats when I was young and broke, dare I say it, poor, I would still be begging them for scraps to this day.

Bob Ellison said...

Ann Althouse said, "I'm putting my writing on a website owned by Google. When does Google pay me a salary?"

You ask facetiously, but it's an interesting question: how does Google make money on althouse.blogspot.com?

I think Google is mostly losing money here, but it's not enough money to care about.

Google is probably trying to sow email addresses and preferences from people who come here, but that can't possibly be enough to pay for the site. The blog itself is probably very cheap for Google to maintain, though.

It's a loss leader, I think. At some point, they'll start pushing ads.

Birches said...

I thought a little civil disobedience was always welcome from the NYT crowd....

damikesc said...

I thought a little civil disobedience was always welcome from the NYT crowd....

It is. Sanctuary cities aren't opposed by them or their readers....

Jane the Actuary said...

Making money on blogspot? That comes when the blogger turns on the ads, doesn't it?

KenK said...

The left loves to exploit the worker sheep; Huffpo, political interns, Reddit, et al. Why the fuck would anyone work for a for-profit entity and especially one that can pay them?

Ann Althouse said...

"Making money on blogspot? That comes when the blogger turns on the ads, doesn't it?"

Google ads pay very little. It's worth it to Google, but the blogger gets almost nothing.

David said...

4. Gullible in this, gullible in everything.

Sammy Finkelman said...

They were quite happy to work for free, to get something they wanted.

What happened is, that Reddit, it seems, uniltarally changed the terms of the deal. Or seems about to. A lot of the deal is unwritten, and informal.

They are saying that they might not continue to work for free if Reddit doesn't keep them satisfied.

In particular they don't like the fact that Reddit fired Victoria Taylor. They are not demanding she be re-hired but they do want someone similar, who will treat them the same way.

They went on strike.

You might think that people who aren't being paid anything can't go on strike, or it is nothinbg to the company if they do - but as you see here, they can.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Bob Ellison said...7/9/15, 9:55 AM

I am still hopeful that the Professor will send me my cut of the Amazon profit, based on my brilliant commentary.

If you have a Discover card you can get 5% cash back on all purchases on Amazon.com during July, Augist and September, 2015. You have to ask in advance, though. (either online or by telephone)


tim in vermont said...

You might think that people who aren't being paid anything can't go on strike, or it is nothinbg to the company if they do - but as you see here, they can

So can they prevent others from becoming mods? Can they call anybody who continues to be a mod a scab?

I don't really think that deep down, Reddit cares if some of their volunteer mods drift away. If they find it too hard to find suckers to be mods for free, they will have to start paying them, I am guessing. Which will certainly change the economics of Reddit, which is Reddit's problem.

tim in vermont said...

What Reddit cares about is PR, so Reddit can't really say out loud what Reddit cares about.

tim in vermont said...

They used to say in the Soviet Union, they couldn't pay their low level functionaries with money, so they paid them with "psychic pay" that is power over their fellow citizens. For instance, a cop who couldn't get an extra ration of pig lard for a holiday could pull you over and write you a ticket for having a dirty car and making Moscow look bad. That was their compensation, the power to make others suffer and forced to respect them.

tim in vermont said...

Reddit dished out psychic pay in the form of the illusion of power.

Bob Ellison said...

Norm Macdonald's moth story.

Anonymous said...

I was stunned when I realized how many moderators at that level were unpaid. I knew the less popular subreddits were unpaid, but IAMA? That is the nature of the internet. It provides a forum for people to be heard, and those comments fuel their profit. Moderator is in a gray area.

Victoria was a paid employee. I'm still unclear as to the machinations behind the Jesse Jackson IAMA that kicked this whole thing off. Victoria moderates and types the person's answers in. Many questions were aggressive and apparently his answers sounded incoherent, but further than that I'm still unclear.

I've used this as an excuse to terminate my reddit habit - I've been trying for a while. I first discovered reddit almost ten years ago when someone posted a comment of mine that had been published on Andrew Sullivan's site. I prefer old school text and conversation based forums to Facebook-type ads and "you guys look great, you are so wonderful" situations. The front page has gotten progressively more juvenile as people learned how to game the up votes. I appreciate the humor, but it was frustrating to see interesting conversations reduced to a bro joke competition in the first few comments. Some of the science subreddits had rules against this and by exercising some choice, it was still a great place.

Still this signals that it is more than time to move on.

tim in vermont said...

"I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further. - Darth Vader.

jimbino said...

If you stoop to working for the Roman Catholic church, you must be a consummate fool as well, since the Vatican is richer than Croesus and won't publish its financial statements.

jimbino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Cracker Emcee said...


"Reddit dished out psychic pay in the form of the illusion of power."

Spot on. You see this happening all over the Web.

Beldar said...

Sounds to me like Reddit may have a serious FLSA problem. I recall that an online roleplaying game, Ultima Online, had a huge class action lawsuit against it for failing to pay wages & overtime to their "volunteer" online customer service staff who were putting in way more than 40 hours/week, in exchange for which most of them only got a "free account" to play the game in their "off hours."

Gahrie said...

If you stoop to working for the Roman Catholic church, you must be a consummate fool as well, since the Vatican is richer than Croesus and won't publish its financial statements

Is there any topic that Althouse can post that you won't turn into an attack on Christianity?

Laslo Spatula said...

This is why Betamax3000 quit the internet.

Pretty much.

I am Laslo.

Drago said...

We've been down this road before.


T said...

Professor,

The Reddit post provides a perfect opportunity to disabuse readers of the underlying false impression in the comments you cite: i.e., that volunteering to work for a "for profit" corporation is absurd while volunteering for a "non-profit" corporation is somehow noble.

In my opinion, the for-profit/non-profit myth that non-profits may not make a profit is one of the greatest scams being perpetrated on the American public. Non-profit corps rely on the confusion between non-profit and public charity and through that, benefit from numerous donations. Goodwill is an excellent example; only $0.08 per every dollar goes to charitable works; $0.92 goes for salaries and other business expenses. In the aftermath of 9/11, it was noted that the woman who ran the Los Angeles division of the Red Cross had a salary of $600,000. Here in Pittsburgh, our local PBS paid its former director $300,000.

As you know, all public charities are non-profit corporations, but not all non-profit corporations are public charities. Further, I have no complaint against high executive salaries. I do, however, resent that these organizations intentionally foster the confusion between non-profit corporation and public charity in order to justify donations, i.e., freebies, from an unknowing public.

Zach said...

I can see it both ways. The moderators are willing to work for the psychic benefits of maintaining a popular forum, and don't like it when the terms are changed.

As to working for free while somebody else makes a profit, I'm inclined to agree with Deacon White. After his contract and Preacher Rowe's were sold to another team, he told a reporter

"We are satisfied with the money, but we ain't worth it. Rowe's arm is gone. I'm over 40 and my fielding ain't so good, though I can still hit some. But I will say this. No man is going to sell my carcass unless I get half."

Big Mike said...

As I said another day on another post, Pao is Pau (Hawaiian for "finished")