The Hitchhiker's Guide To Reddit

Or, How To Understand The Birthplace Of News, Events and Memes

What we'll be covering today:

  1. Reading Reddit - how to avoid the terrible interface
  2. Subreddits - what they are and how they work
  3. Ranking / Scoring - how things move up and down
  4. Reddit Gold - Reddit's premium service
  5. Reddit Culture - how to not piss people off

A Gentle Preface

When I first saw Reddit, my UX brain melted from horror.
Reddit circa 2010
This is what Reddit looked like in 2010 vs. 2016. Notice any changes? Me neither.

Unfortunately, the site hasn't changed at all in over a decade. Which has made it hard for people to jump on board. But once you do wrap your head around it, you'll be at the forefront of content curation, know what's trending before most others do, and ultimately start to see how news breaks. So as a starting point - let's find an easier way to read this stuff

1. Reading Reddit

The most important thing to know before jumping in is that most people have changed the way they read Reddit. Either by using a different theme, or using an app for the experience.
For me personally - I use the mobile Reddit app - Narwhal:

As you can see - it takes a really ugly experience, and makes it fairly bearable.
If you're an Android user - I recommend BaconReader:

If you're using Reddit on your desktop - I recommend Reditr

I'll give you a minute to get your house in order before we begin.

2. SubReddits

Or subs, or /r/

Ok, now that you're all suited up - let's get into the guts of Reddit.

Everything in Reddit is housed in a subreddit. You'll find subreddits under[nameofsubreddit]. When you first land on, you're actually on a subreddit called All. This is where you'll find all the top trending content in a given moment. Each subreddit is usually fairly different, with its own norms, rules and overall culture. Finding your favourite subreddit is what will help you fall in love with this ugly duckling.

The very top of the site offers up the most popular subreddits. I'd recommend clicking through them to get a taste of the flavours of reddit, but here are some of my favourites:

Good subreddits usually have a guide on their main page that can give you helpful tips. For instance - here's the subreddit for Dwarf Fortress - one of the most difficult video games of all time:

You can see a list of really helpful information that is good for either newbies or for veterans before they dive into the community - as well as getting into the game. This is also where you'll find important information pinned down, so that top content from the thread doesn't end up buried.

3. Ranking / Scoring

Reddit has a transparently documented voting system for its content. Here's a decent article if you want to dive into the guts of it, but for simplicities sake, it breaks down like this.

As a user on Reddit (that is, if you've created an account - which you don't have to) you rank up Karma. Karma is earned by posting content to the site (yours, or others), and other Reddit users can Upvote or Downvote that content. That's what those arrows are for next to each article.

This concept is important - because unlike any other website, Reddit Karma has a major effect on what content floats to the top of a subreddit (which I'll hereby refer to as a sub, as that is the actual Reddit alias for saying it the "long" way). This is how Reddit fights bots, spammers, and other people who try to game the system for their own personal gain.
As an example of this - you can learn about why Donald Trump's AMA didn't make it to the Reddit Frontpage (the All Subreddit) over here.
This ranking system applies to any content contribution, including comments, which brings me to my next point.

4. Reddit Gold

"How does this thing make money?" is probably what you've been asking for years. Great question, I don't have any particularly great answer for you; however, I can tell you that people do pay to use Reddit. You can get premium access to Reddit, which means you experience the service Ad Free, can get custom avatars, custom themes, etc. Here's the full list. The reddit gold thing is important not only from a "How Reddit stays afloat" perspective, but also from a voting perspective. If you write a great comment, you're not only likely to get upvoted, but there's also a chance you can get "Gilded". Which means that somebody gave you Reddit Gold. Reddit premium for a month.

5. Observing The Culture

Like any tourist, it's best to observe your surroundings before jumping in. Spend some time seeing the sights, before jumping to any conclusions, particularly within the sub of your choice. You'll notice that the culture of /r/DataIsBeautiful is probably fairly different from the culture of /r/theDonald (this is also another example of how people say the names of their subs... They include the slash and the r). More than anything though, this applies to the nature of the comments. Observe, appreciate, participate.

That's it for now - hopefully that helps you jump on in and get your feet wet. I recommend using Reddit for a week, and using the /r/All sub as a means of checking the news. See how it compares to your usual news sources, and you'll likely find that you're now king of the memes amongst your peers, and may even see news happening, before it breaks on traditional media.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To Reddit
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