Reddit Inc.’s users, never a shy group, wasted no time in giving co-founder Steve Huffman a list of what they want fixed now that he has succeeded Ellen Pao as chief executive officer of the online forum.
In one of the closely held company’s Ask Me Anything online sessions on Saturday, Huffman stepped up to a barrage of user comments and said how he plans to address some of their complaints.
Pao, facing a user revolt, resigned Friday as interim CEO. Huffman, who was Reddit’s first chief after he and co-founder Alexis Ohanian developed the forum as part of the startup incubator Y Combinator, has had no official role in the company for several years. After starting in obscurity 10 years ago, Reddit is now one of the largest sites on the Web, with the company estimating 164 million monthly unique visitors.
While maintaining that he’s unlikely to reverse some of the changes Pao made -- including the controversial firing of discussion coordinator Victoria Taylor -- he said he’s open to changes, including making Reddit’s policies clearer.
Here are areas where Huffman said users may see changes, in what could improve morale for users, workers and discussion administrators:
* IMPROVED COMMUNICATION: Part of the user revolt against Pao included complaints that she didn’t clearly communicate the reasons for some of her policies.
“One of my first priorities is to re-establish a relationship with the community,” Huffman wrote. “This is the first of what I expect will be many” Ask Me Anything sessions, he said, adding that he may do them weekly.
* SHADOWBANNING: This practice hides certain messages from showing up in Reddit users’ feeds. It was originally intended to stop the spread of spam, without alerting the spammers that they had been blocked. Some users told Huffman they have personally been shadowbanned with no explanation, sometimes for something as innocuous as mentioning a celebrity by name or posting a similar message in two or more groups too quickly.
“I want it to be as difficult as possible for the spammers to know they’ve been caught,” Huffman wrote. “Real users should never be shadowbanned. Ever. If we ban them, or specific content, it will be obvious that it’s happened and there will be a mechanism for appealing the decision.”
* CRITERIA FOR BANNING COMMENTARY: Multiple users complained about opaque policies that led to their comments or categories being deleted with no explanation.
* RESTORING DOWN-VOTE TOTALS: Reddit disabled counters showing the number of so-called user up-votes versus down-votes on commentary threads. On the Ask Me Anything page, a Reddit notice says it disabled down-voting there because, in big-enough numbers, down-votes eventually hide minority opinions from view. Some users said told Huffman it was useful to have a gauge of a comment’s popularity, particularly in smaller so-called subreddits.
Huffman wrote that he “will definitely consider” restoring vote counters. “I want to hear the reasoning for why they were removed in the first place,” he wrote. “Perhaps there is a better solution to that problem.”
* NEW MEMBERS: Users complained to Huffman that the site isn’t very welcoming and that it may be best to suggest individual Reddit forums to new members based on their interests, at the point they join.
“We are literally working on this right now!” Huffman wrote, linking to a mock-up of a new website layout. The trick, he wrote separately, is make sure the site meets the needs of all users. “The new user/core user dichotomy is the biggest product challenge” Reddit faces right now, he wrote. “Solve it, and we are unstoppable.”
Pao, who apologized last week to the Reddit community after the online protest over the firing of Taylor, will remain an adviser to the board through the end of the year.
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