On promoting things with Reddit: don’t.

OnGamers was banned from the entirety of Reddit yesterday due to being systematically identified as spammers, defined by Reddit administration and algorithms. The blog’s entire domain was banned from being submitted for link posts as well as members of its staff shadowbanned, which removes public visibility of contributions made by the accounts unless a moderator approves it. 1

bcdm_journalism_redditImmediately, the staff of the website started making the case that they weren’t spammers and that they would be appealing the decision made by the Reddit administrators. Damage control like this is fine. It’s expected when you’ve basically been accused of being a spammer. As a journalist, you try to clear your name because it affects your credibility.

This is the damage control that I mean:

That all seems well and good. It’s the right message to send out. It’s a temporary problem with Reddit. Reddit is a weird place, right? Surely the application of a little bit of misdirection with some little white lies and the whole thing will blow over before the weekend.

At this point, everything that happens happens behind the closed doors of Reddit administration. Anyone can speculate that CBSi is attempting to get Reddit to overturn its blogspam ban, and that’s probably happening, but the last absolute facts that we’ll ever receive about this situation were published by r/starcraft moderator CandyManCan. The takeaway from the post is the following blurb:

The reasons behind the ban are unknown, but these types of bans have only ever been issued for vote manipulation of reddit.

But what exactly counts as vote manipulation? Here’s how the Reddit FAQ page describes vote manipulation:

Besides spam, the other big no-no is to try to manipulate voting by any means: manual, mechanical, or otherwise. We’re not going to post an exhaustive list of forbidden tactics (lest we give people ideas), but some major ones are:

  • Don’t use shill or multiple accounts, voting services, or any other software to increase votes for submissions
  • Don’t ask other users to vote on certain posts, either on reddit itself or anywhere else (through Twitter, Facebook, IM programs, IRC, etc.)
  • Don’t be part of a “voting clique” or “vote ring”

A voting clique is a group of people who send links to their submissions around via message, IM, or any other means, with the expectation of “you guys vote for my stuff and I’ll vote for yours.” A “vote ring” is a group of people who agree to vote on certain things together, either a specific submission, a user, a domain, or anything like that. Upvote each submission or content for the value of the information in it, a variety of things that you think are interesting and will benefit the community.

Let’s theory craft a bit.

Let’s stipulate that the above rules could be applied to an entity and anyone associated with that entity in the same way that the guidelines above apply to an individual user. With that consideration, the actions of certain OnGamers staff could have very well tipped off Reddit’s vote manipulation detectors. The scripts don’t take into consideration that Slasher has a six-year-old account that’s been active—the only thing that matters is what tips off the indicators.

While there is plenty of folks rushing to the defense of the OnGamers staff being indiscriminately banned, there is this pseudo-acknowledgment spreading around that surely they’re breaking the self-promotion rules. 2 They must be doing something that Reddit feels should be stopped when so much of their publicly scannable traffic comes from there. 3

XavierMendel, a moderator for r/games, commented on the fine line between spamming and promoting (emphasis added): 4

Howdy! Domain bans are largely for vote manipulation, but that’s not the case here. This ban was almost certainly handed out not due to the votes on the content (though it could’ve happened), but due to the scale of the organization and efficiency by which the domain was submitted by a small group of people.

People always point to Slasher to say that we’re two-faced with the self promotion rules, and from their point of view they’re right. However, knowing the situation and knowing that he’s making an effort to get a better ratio (and doing so; his ratio has dropped from ~86% to under 30% in the past couple months), you can see that he’s not a spammer.

I have little doubt when it comes to him and the domain getting unbanned, however, I have major doubt that it won’t end there. Some accounts banned by this wave were at a 100% ratio over a long period of time. 100% isn’t an anomaly, it isn’t something you can shake off or fix too easily.

I don’t know what the admins are thinking right now, but I doubt whatever they’re thinking will please everyone. And honestly, that’s the way it should be.

While acknowledging that the statements he makes about the causes of the entire action are not fact, I’m going to assume that a moderator of r/games has a little bit of experience with exactly this scenario.

What can OnGamers do at this point, though? The damage has been done and while it seems that there might be a chance that these bans could be rescinded, what’s to say that we’ll be having this conversation all over again in a few weeks or months? If not about OnGamers, perhaps another esports personality?

A lesson to be learned, here: don’t post your own content to Reddit. Just don’t. Please. No. Don’t do it because of the self-promotion rules if you don’t agree with them, but because your content gains a little bit of legitimacy every time it’s shared by someone else. That’s the best thing about other people sharing your content–and it’s always been that way.

However, if you absolutely must promote your corporately subsidized news site on Reddit, why not give advertising a shot?

Hyping up the Counter-Strike community with your Photoshopped wiki design doesn’t hype up anything.

Esports cool gal Anne Celestino 1 sent me a post made to the subreddit /r/globaloffensive. 2 There’s a couple of things wrong with the situation as I understand it, but ultimately, it’s a wiki crippled by someone who thinks Photoshopping a design is the same thing as designing it.

I’m not a particularly crazy CS fanboy or anything, but this post is more of about an aspect of the community meta, so if you’re looking for my opinion on the best way to eco in competitive play, you should probably look elsewhere.

Speaking from personal experience (I’ve done something like this before), having an artist that can help with asset creation in Photoshop or Illustrator makes for a great ally in the web development process. On the other hand, having a project leader that dictates what they want the website to look like using a layered Photoshop file is a recipe for trouble later on in the project’s life, especially when it comes to making adjustments as the ideal product’s specifications will inevitably change during the development of the site.

In the case of Knife Round (their Photoshopped design’s theoretical name), their first draft of the design being published just makes the entire project come off as a bit amateurish, if not incompetent.

Here’s the type of website they want to compete with:

Frontpage of the SC2 Liquidpedia by TeamLiquid.

This is another wiki they would be competing against that serves a wider audience:

Frontpage of the English version of Wikipedia.

Both examples have contrasting, easy-to-read and uniform color choices across their sites. The content on the main page is generally narrowly constrained to allow as much diversity in information displayed. These indexes share space with multiple elements at once such as featured content chosen by editors, links to important parts of the wiki, news feeds concerning the niche of the wiki or the wiki itself… the list of what’s appropriate here isn’t limited to these. Ultimately, the first page for these two wikis contain enough information that could be digested by a glance or two while allowing the user to quickly access what they intended to research.

Here’s their first design: 3

Frontpage of Knife Round, made by scrubalicious prime in Photoshop with l33t hax0rz.

So there’s a menu… and there’s some color changes… and there’s no wiki links anywhere—however, they did get that featured article front-and-center on the index. They even have a spiffy logo in the upper left hand corner, too!

A certain user in the thread—I’m not sure if this person is related to the wiki project or not—describes matter-of-factly why a wiki’s design is important: 4

If you go to a wiki and it looks white and bland, would you fully trust information from it?

In other words, a complete and good looking wiki makes, to the casual onlooker, more official. For example, I bet you, if the NY Times was made last year as an online-only paper, and the website looked like reddit (not bashing on reddit’s design, they are two completely different types of websites), do you think people would trust it like they do now?

There’s no way that guy is serious, right?

There’s no way that this project is serious, at this point… right?

  1. Anne is a Community Manager with the US branch of ESL and tweets at @hubwub.
  2. /r/globaloffensive: Remember the CS:GO Pro Wiki? Well we have finished our first design! Feedback is Appreciated!
  3. I actually have no idea who the person is that designed this, because there’s a little bit of the typical give-this-to-my-friend-to-publish feel about the post.
  4. earthrace57’s out-of-touch comment about what’s best for a fledgling wiki