If you tried to visit r/IAmA (one of Reddit’s biggest subs) recently, you were probably greeted by the image above. And if you’ve been absolutely anywhere else on the site at all in the past few hours, you probably noticed that everyone is flipping their collective shit over speculation that Victoria Taylor, the high-profile coordinator that kept IAmA afloat, was suddenly and mysteriously fired. Also, something about Jesse Jackson.
What’s actually going on?
In addition to being one of the internet’s premier incubators for racism and bigotry of all sorts, Reddit is also perhaps best known for its AmAs (otherwise known as “Ask Me Anything”)—in which people with varying degrees of celebrity will come and answer questions for the masses to see. Coordinating and verifying all those celebrities takes a massive amount of work, which is why Victoria Taylor, the site’s Director of Talent, seems to have been so immensely beloved by the site’s many, voluntary moderators—she was good.
Apparently, where other Reddit “admins” (read: actual, paid Reddit employees) usually brush off moderators’ questions and concerns, Taylor seemed to have a reputation for actually giving a shit. When asked why r/AmA had gone private, one of the subreddit’s mods, karmanaut, explained:
To be honest, this is just wrong. I don’t think you were still involved with Reddit when we started getting very very popular and had a regular stream of celebrity AMAs incoming. We didn’t have the ability or resources to walk them through it, or to schedule AMAs, or provide any other form of support.
/r/IAmA limped along without her. We managed to move from fire to fire and had some truly poor quality posts from people who didn’t understand Reddit or what the AMA format was all about. Woody Harrelson, of course, is the prime example. Another would be the fake Emilia Clarke AMA that blew up and everyone thought was real until her manager personally contacted us to tell us that it was wrong. And it translates into bad press for Redditwhen that happens.
The subreddit is going to continue to grow by what, 7 or 8 thousand users per day? By saying that we’re returning to the pre-Victoria status quo, you’re admitting that you’re shooting us in the leg but still expecting us to run the same speed. We can’t do that.
And frankly, interactions with other Reddit admins have not been amazing. We’re constantly ignored by the community team even when discussing serious issues that need some admin resolution. And as someone else already pointed out, one of the main times that we relied on the general admin team to set up and run an AMA, it was a clusterfuck: Morgan Freeman. Because no one thought to get clear proof that it was really him. Victoria wouldn’t make that mistake.
Its not just moderators for that specific subreddit, though. Taylor’s loss is apparently having ripple effects over major portions of the site. One r/Science moderator (another of the site’s biggest subreddits) even threatened to shut that down over the unexplained loss:
To back this up, I am the mod in /r/science that organizes all of the science AMAs, and I am going to have meaningful problems in the /r/Science AMAs, Victoria was the only line of communication with the admins. If someone wants to get analytics for an AMA the answer will be “Sorry, I can’t help.”
Dropping this on all of us in the AMA sphere feels like an enormous slap to those of us who put in massive amounts of time to bring quality content to reddit.
And this is just the latest in the recent string of Redditor revolts. Granted, most recently the issue was the Nazi-themed protests in response to the banning of five, small, particularly toxic subreddits—but regardless, tensions are high.
Compounding the issue is the fact that, other than Ellen Pao, Reddit’s almost universally user-despised interim CEO (due to the fact that she does actually enforce the site’s new harassment policy), Taylor was one of the only visible women playing any sort of key role in the company.
While Reddit declined to comment to Gawker on the circumstances surrounding her leaving, we do know that she certainly wasn’t expecting it. In a thread requesting some sort of comment from her, Taylor responded saying that she was “dazed.”
Why is Victoria Taylor out?
There are two possibilities that seem likely at this point. The first being the fact that Reddit had announced months ago that it would start requiring its employees to relocate to San Francisco. Taylor is currently living in New York.
The second (and my favorite) theory:
So the current rumor is Jesse Jackson's AMA led to Victoria being fired at Reddit, and this shitstorm starting up.Unconfirmed, of course.July 3, 2015
Yesterday, Jesse Jackson hosted an AMA that went absolutely to shit. Jackson seemed to be providing arbitrary answers to questions that had never been asked, regardless of what he was responding to. When asked “What are some things that the average African-American can do to help reduce racial tensions in his area?” Jackson wrote three, non-sensical paragraphs that started with “Well, the source of those tensions often come from denial of an even playing field. You know, we are very good at athletics.”
One particularly vicious post asked, “My question is simple; how is your relationship with the illegitimate child you fathered in 1998 while cheating on your wife? Bonus question: How much money have you extorted from various people and companies over the years of practicing your shakedown scheme? Do you think Al Capone would be jealous of your business model if he were still alive?” To which Jackson offered:
Which, though an absolute and utter mess, isn’t necessarily Taylor’s fault, so it doesn’t seem like a fireable offense in itself—although the timing does raise an eyebrow.
Either way, Taylor has yet to make any substantial statement on her apparent dismissal, but if you have any more information about what the hell is going on over at Reddit, you can send me an email here.
As of right now, the following default (i.e. major) subreddits have shut down, according to Reddit user Greypo, “in protest of the admins’ lack of communication with the moderators and ignoring their opinions, ideas, and requests. The firing of Victoria was the catalyst.”
I’ve reached out to Bodnick for confirmation, but it certainly seems like the most plausible explanation so far.
That said, I would like to accomplish two things immediately:
Get the blacked out subreddits back online
Your message was received loud and clear. The communication between Reddit and the moderators needs to improve dramatically. We will work closely with you all going forward to ensure events like today don’t happen again. At this point, however, the blackout has served its purpose, and now it’s time to get Reddit functioning again. I know many of you are still upset. We will continue to work through these issues with you all, but redditors don’t deserve to be punished any further over an issue that is ultimately between Reddit and the moderators.
Work out a plan for going forward
In the short-term, we will use this forum to discuss how we will improve being a moderator on reddit. I’ll personally be in here asking and listening. There are a couple of changes we can make immediately to improve our relationship:
u/krispykrackers , a well-trusted employee and community member, is now going to be point person for moderator issues. This should help alleviate the immediate pain, and we’ll continue to evaluate how it’s working going forward.
... Longer term, we are building tools to help you all do your jobs more effectively (anti-brigading and better modmail/tools are already in progress). We will build these with your input and incorporate more transparency. We have many ideas, and we would like to hear yours. We will keep you all in the loop as our plans crystallize into actual tools.
Meanwhile, /r/Pics is apparently ground zero right now. The subreddit has beens switching between private and public all morning, at first seemingly due to a Reddit employee override, according to this Imgur post:
It’s still not totally clear what’s going on, other than, of course, mass panic and paranoia.
As of right now, the sub is live but consists almost entirely of pictures of Taylor herself.
Reddit CEO Ellen Pao has finally weighed in on the upheaval:
Apparently, Ohanian’s initial attempt to appease Reddit’s masses may have been what really set the whole thing off in the first place.
After promising that he did have the situation under control and would be handling any AmA requests himself (a less-than-welcome prospect for the already pissed-off redditors), the co-founder (username kn0thing) seems to have let his frustrations get the better of him:
u/knotknox made fake screenshots suggesting that the admins forced our hand. It was just a joke at the time, but once the blackout brigade got ahold of it they didn’t really care if it was real or not.
This whole issue was never just about Victoria being fired. It was about a lack of communication between the reddit mods and management. Firing Victoria was just the final straw. But these users who are brigading r/pics want to turn it into another Ellen Pao hatefest.
In other words, the reason the subreddit is live now has nothing to do with Reddit employees suddenly pulling rank and overriding moderators. Rather, it seems like the mods simply came to their senses and realized that, if anything is ever actually going to get fixed, they’re going to need to use their adult words. Which is to say, any words at all.
In an email to Gawker, Reddit spokesperson Heather Wilson passed along Ellen Pao’s official statement on the situation:
I want to apologize for how we handled the transition yesterday. We should have informed the moderators earlier and provided more detail on the transition plan. We are working to make improvements and create the best experience for our users and we aren’t always perfect. Our community is what makes reddit, reddit and we let you down yesterday.
Update 7/4 2:04pm:
No war is without its casualties. So it is with deep regret that I inform you of the following: