The Internet in a Sugar-Coated Nutshell: reddit

The internet is a big, sprawling, expansive network – with a sole purpose to feed you information by the gigabyte. Every minute of every day, there are 72 HOURS of video uploaded to YouTube, 2 million Google searches6 million Facebook views, 15,000 iTunes downloads and hundreds, if not thousands, of news stories published. It’s vast, and there’s no way of keeping constant track of everything. But there’s one website that helps: reddit.

reddit is a content aggregation site at its’ heart. Its’ millions of users post links to the site’s individual content categories, called subreddits, ranging from the cute pictures /r/aww to current affairs in /r/news or discussion of the latest events in a show, like /r/breakingbad. Anything worthy of attention or debate on the internet can be brought to reddit, where users can view the content, and then comment and debate. You can keep tabs of news of any of your personal interests in one simple place.

There are many other sites out there that have tried to do what reddit does so well, DiggStumbleUpon, even the defunct Google Reader. None of them have the sense of community that reddit has, that makes it interesting and useful as a source. Users vote on each linked submission, based on whether its’ interesting. All links are rated based on their popularity and how new they are, and each subreddit has its’ own front page, where the most popular and fresh links appear. Big news rises fast. The most highly rated posts appear on a reddit-wide “front-page”, for maximum visibility. The site is a brilliant way of seeing what’s trending on the internet, or even in the news, with sourced information and generally reasoned comment.

The comment system of reddit is far and away the best user input of any website I’ve seen. We all know how internet comments can be puerile and childish most of the time. Any trip to a YouTube video’s comments section will make you lose faith in the denizens of the internet. Reddit will restore that faith. Much like the posts, users can positively “upvote” or negatively “downvote” comments and that will be reflected on where comments appear. Reddit does a better job than any other site at showing enough comments in a thread to let you see an argument, without one single argument hijacking the entire discussion. Generally the comments actually add to the discussion, or make you laugh, or make you stop and think.

You can browse reddit without making account, lurking as it’s known, but the true value of the website really comes when you sign up properly – as I found out only a week or two ago. Reddit chooses default subreddits for anyone not signed in, and while it gives you a broad source of news and information, it’s not nearly as good as choosing your own interests and following them. My front page now shows me the latest football news from /r/soccer, things happening in Aberdeen from /r/Aberdeen and even the latest in the world of Gaelic /r/gaidhlig (who said the language wasn’t 21st century?). As someone who loves to know what’s going on in the world, reddit covers more bases than I could ever do myself when I visit multiple news sites.

The real highlights of reddit, in my eyes, are not even the links that are posted, but the self-initiated discussions that appear on the site, self-posts as they are known. One subreddit, /r/askreddit, involved users asking questions of the user-base at large, and often leads to deep, insightful answers. /r/explainlikeimfive lets users ask those questions to little life mysteries, often scientific, and get a layman’s terms response. The most famous subreddit is perhaps /r/IAmA, short for both “I am A” and Ask me Anything, where celebrities and industry experts offer themselves up for questioning from the users. This style of ‘interview’ leads to much more interesting and true responses to meaningful questions. It’s still the internet though, with a ‘slick’ sense of humour, so you’ll also find out celebrities’ answers to such questions as “Would you rather fight one hundred duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?” It’s also a brilliant source of memes if you’re looking for a laugh. reddit’s a great site to learn more about the world around you, and an even better site to learn about the people that live in it with you.

Much like any other website, it’s not absolutely perfect. There are still some adverts to contend with, as the site rightfully tries to monetise its service, but they are not overly intrusive. The general layout of the website can be seen as slightly bland and perhaps unforgiving to those new to site; but once you’ve spent time with the site, navigating it is as easy as opening a new tab to search Google. reddit is still not a profit-making website, despite its’ growing popularity. Apart from its’ ads, the only way in which it makes money is from users’ buying themselves, or gifting another user who has posted a good comment, a subscription to enhanced features, such as better post and comment archiving. The site has a future, but how that future will play out is anyone’s guess.

If you are a heavy and broad user of the internet, reddit was made for you. Give it a try, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it both saves you time in visiting many websites whilst at the same time sucking you in for hours until you emerge from scanning through posts.

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