There are a number of reasons why I have been less and less active on Reddit during the past few years. Ellen Pao personified some of them, and I'm happy to see her go, but Reddit parting ways with her is only a step, not the whole road to recovery.To be honest, for a long time I stopped bothering to write to Reddit's administrators because they have a long-standing habit of not listening, but right now they seem to be possibly inclined to it.
I started using this site because I found it to be an effective and fun communication tool with which I could reach out to others who have similar interests. The ability to communicate openly and share information with a widespread user base was and is very valuable to me. Early on, under account names now defunct because I expressed political opinions someone didn't like, I made personal connections that never would have happened had the site not existed. I formed friendships with people all over the world. I discovered whole communities with a variety of interests and opinions, and a place for discussion and debate that helped me expand my knowledge and sharpen my critical thinking skills and as a result, evolve my whole outlook on life.
And then something terrible happened.
I watched you reduce Reddit's usefulness and comfortable openness with the addition of censorship tools armed and executed with political bias. I've seen you shadowban users for expressing disapproved opinions. I've seen you quietly eclipse or even delete discussions about disapproved topics. Simply put, I've watched the tools purportedly created to protect the site from spam get exploited as silencing tools to "protect" the site from open, meaningful discussion that might lead to conclusions which don't jive with a specific worldview.
I've seen you selectively enforce rules of conduct depending on the political affiliation of the accused. I've seen you refuse to communicate with subreddit moderators, so that they cannot inform their subscribers on how to use the site without falling afoul of your increasingly limiting biases. I've seen you use arbitrary labeling to excuse banning links to small news sites based on whether or not they align with a specific worldview. Seeing you ban users for linking to news and research published on sites against which you have a political bias has been very disturbing. It indicates a sense of entitlement to manipulate public opinion by limiting what can be presented on a widely used discussion hub. You couldn't find a better way to destroy faith in site admins than these behaviors. This makes the site look unprofessional to the point of appearing as a fly-by-night operation.
Pao was a problem, but she wasn't THE problem. The censorship, the unequal application of site rules and site disciplinary measures, and the constant flouting of user interests in favor of arrogantly telling us what we should want and what we should like all started before she came to Reddit. Mistreating your users and mods is why #RedditRevolt exists. Firing one of your most popular employees because she wouldn't do something unethical was the last straw. Please ask Victoria Taylor to come back. She didn't deserve what was done to her and your consumers, the users of the site, are outraged at the way she was treated.
No matter who you put in the driver's seat, if your site stays on the road you've chosen there are many of us who will never be on board with you. We won't adopt a particular worldview if it becomes the only one permitted on Reddit. We'll abandon the site as the sinking ship it is, and go to one of many others which are available, or we will create our own, and because many of us have learned from #GamerGate's example, we can and will take the site's ad revenue with us.
Political bias in site administration takes the social out of social networking. If you want to limit Reddit to just another of several social sites dominated by one small, ideologically restricted portion of the population, you're doing it right. You won't grow, but you'll have a nice, comfortable echo chamber in which to feel more influential than you can actually be in the environment you've created.
If you want growth in user interest and enthusiasm, higher ranking, and to once again be the social communication hub that you started out as in the beginning, drop the political censorship and let people talk... even the ones who say things you don't like... bring back Victoria, and bring some transparency and consistency into your relationship with your consumers.
State the site's rules clearly and make them unmistakable, so they will be easy to follow, and apply them evenly. Do not have or use "unwritten" rules. If it's unwritten, it's not a rule. It is unfair to all of your users and creates a hostile environment when you invent "rules" on the spot as an excuse to shadowban. And don't use your own rules against vote manipulation as a means of vote manipulation. We do notice when you do that.
Don't feel that labeling some news & information sites "not journalistic" because they're small or you don't identify with their area of coverage justifies censoring links to them. That only creates an environment that is hostile to anyone wanting to discuss issues and concepts largely covered by media that isn't mainstream. People are capable of reading, assessing, and debating information presented with these links. Denying your users the choice is tantamount to treating us like we're too stupid to form our own opinions.
Don't make yourselves unavailable to users who contact you, especially subreddit moderators. Don't make your subreddit moderators constantly beg for important information on site administration, rules, maintenance, and updates, especially given the amount of work many of them do without expecting anything in return. You are mistreating valuable unpaid volunteers. Nobody should have to tell you how unprofessional that is, or how unwise.
That's it; all we're asking for is some transparency, and fair treatment of all of your employees, volunteers, and consumers. Those are not difficult requests to fulfill. Reddit doesn't have to sink because of this conflict. It can become better, stronger, and more stable. It's up to you, admins. If you tighten your grip, you'll choke Reddit to death. If you make it functional, unbiased, and open, you'll have the user base you want. We're all waiting to see which road you'll choose.
Am I holding my breath for a result?
Not at all. However, the only chance at salvaging the site is if even the most frustrated Redditors are willing to give it a shot, communicate our complaints to the administrators, and allow them a chance to fix things.
They're going to have to decide whether they want a social popular, influential bookmarking/networking site, or an echo chamber where they keep tight control on discussion while keeping their volunteers and their consumers largely in the dark about site administration. It's their job to try to fix things, but it's our job to communicate what we want to see, and whether or not the changes they're making are satisfactory. It's my hope that other redditors will also write to the admins, letting them know that the desire for transparency, fair treatment, and unbiased administration (and the reinstatement of Victoria Taylor) is a widely held interest.