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gross incompetence racism reddit

A good portion of Reddit has gone dark in protest of site admins’ apparent firing of a popular staffer

Hey, where'd that subreddit go?
Hey, where’d that subreddit go?

So Reddit is in a tizzy again. This time, surprisingly, it’s not because Redditors are outraged that the site admins have hired a woman, or shut down one of dozens of subreddits devoted to, I dunno, stolen pictures of dead celebrity babies, or some other typically Reddity thing for Redditors to get outraged about.

No, this time Redditors are angry because Reddit seems have fired the one staffer who was genuinely liked by a wide swath of Redditors — that staffer being Victoria Taylor, Reddit’s Director of Talent, perhaps best known for keeping the site’s mega-popular Ask Me Anything (AMA) threads running smoothly, which extended to relaying questions to famous guests and transcribing their answers. 

After learning of her mysterious departure yesterday, the IAmA subreddit — home to Reddit’s AMAs — took itself private as it tried to figure out how to operate without her. Other subreddits, including some of the site’s most popular ones, took themselves private in solidarity. It’s a testament to how badly site admins have handled this that both the Men’s Rights subreddit AND GamerGhazi — the main anti-GamerGate subreddit — have gone dark.

With no explanation of the firing forthcoming from the Reddit overlords, there’s a lot of speculation going on.

Some Redditors are convinced that Taylor’s apparent firing was a response to her perceived mishandling of a Jesse Jackson AMA (archived here). Reddit being Reddit — that is, a site that has been welcoming to trolls and bigots and other terrible people from the start — Jackson was peppered with an assortment of hostile and sometimes openly racist questions, including one lovely tirade that started by declaring him “an immoral, hate-filled race baiter,” before asking him “how is your relationship with the illegitimate child you fathered in 1998 while cheating on your wife” and whether or not “Al Capone would be jealous of your business model if he were still alive?”

Jackson’s response to that question was so bizarre that it seems clear that Taylor must have censored the question before relaying it to him. If true, this was a well-intentioned mistake that had the unintended effect of making Jackson look like he was admitting to being an extortionist.

But of course the outpouring of hate in the AMA was hardly her fault; that’s what happens on a site that allows racism to flourish to such an extent that white supremacists have started using it as a primo hunting ground for new recruits.

Meanwhile, other Reddit observers are suggesting that the Jesse Jackson theory is bunk and that Taylor was in fact booted because she was resisting Reddit’s efforts to “overcommercialize” the site.

Whatever the reason, the Reddit overlords have a bit of a PR disaster on their hands.

For more details and updates, see this summary of events on Gawker and/or this highly useful thread on the Out of the Loop subreddit. And if you have any other useful links or info, feel free to post them below.

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skiriki
5 years ago

The Gawker link is to Reddit, FYI.

Mimi
Mimi
5 years ago

Hey, just so you know, you’ve linked to the r/OutoftheLoop twice, and left out the Gawker timeline link.

But still, good post. It seems a simple Reddit solution would’ve been to ban the racist questioners, instead of the person who made AMA’s possible in the first place. Now that they’re starting to ban racist subreddits anyways, why not?

anemonerosie
5 years ago

Reddit delenda est.

Film Runner
5 years ago

I’m hoping this is the start of a downward spiral.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

People are already blaming it on Ellen Pao. I swear, someday the sun will fail to come up and redditors will blame it on Pao.

spacelawn
5 years ago

lol

a ghost fart (@a_ghost_fart)

Burn Reddit Down

Bina
Bina
5 years ago

Once more, Reddit eats its own ass. Racism and misogyny are okay, but a co-ordinator having independent (and sensible) ideas about bad management decisions? NOPE. Says it all, really.

Karl
Karl
5 years ago

Honestly, the fact that the IAMA had to shut down shows the the real reason she was sacked – she was silo-building (hoarding knowledge in a misguided effort to protect her employment.)

I’ve seen it before, and management made the right call – the longer you wait to get rid of them the more painful it becomes.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
5 years ago

I had a dream, once. Shall I tell you about it? I dreamed that one day, little progressive subs and big bigoted subs could one day join hands together in solidarity. I dreamed that one day, subs would not be judged by the content of their… content… but by how much they hated the admins. I dreamed… and today that dream has become reality.

But seriously, this is one of those things where I have no real driving opinion. The staffer that was fire was actually pretty critical, so the anger makes perfect sense. It’s a bit sad to see a big company like Reddit drive itself into the ground in real time.

On the other hand, this is about the only situation in which the toxic subreddits are actually being ‘shut down’ (by the mods of those subs, but still). Big things are happening, and for good reasons, but the big things I wish were happening aren’t happening for the right good reasons.

Ah well, pass the popcorn, and let’s watch this train wreck.

Genn
5 years ago

“Silo building”, really, Karl? By running a subreddit expertly and professionally, she was “hoarding knowledge in a misguided effort to protect her employment”? And she was “hoarding” this knowledge through wide dissemination on one of Reddit’s most popular subreddits? That’s a pretty dastardly plan, hoarding knowledge by making it so very, very public.

Anastasia
5 years ago

I…legit feel bad for the Reddit moderators here. It’s awful to have *one* advocate/actual competent person “managing” you and then to lose them.

@Karl – I am not a Reddit expert (or even a Reddit user really) but from what I read she wasn’t “hoarding knowledge”. She was providing valuable assistance to the unpaid moderators who have little to no actual power, by doing things like 1) verifying potential AMAers were the people they claimed to be 2) being one of the only employees who would actually pay attention to and work out issues brought to her by mods.

In other words, the subs aren’t closing because other Reddit employees want to help but don’t have Victoria’s esoteric knowledge; they are closing because she appeared to be one of the only employees who was willing to *do her job*.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

I’ve not heard the phrase “silo building” before, but I’m familiar with the concept. If an employee is so vital to the operation that they hold the power in any negotiation with management rather than vice versa, then a) management have screwed up immensely, but also b) the company cannot permit this situation to continue. Paradoxically, in this situation firing the person immediately is usually the only real option.

davidgerard
5 years ago

It’s important to note that this was a terrible and stupid action by any measure – r/IAmA is the ridiculously popular mainstream end of Reddit, the bit that lures in new users, and it seems nobody in power actually understood what Taylor actually did for a living. The execs’ tone-deaf posts since have only magnified this.

It’s not symmetrical to the decision to kick out the very worst people in the world, but this move has actually pissed off both the nice people and the horrible people.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
5 years ago

At this time, I think the most likely explanation is one of the ones mentioned on the Gawker article – she wasn’t willing to relocate to San Francisco. I’ve been in that place before (a site was looking into hiring me but wanted me to relocate to California from Australia, which wasn’t possible at the time, so it fell through). It’s dumb, but common enough with large sites.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
5 years ago

*Mentioned in, even.

Cerberus
5 years ago

The very fact that the term “silo building” exists demonstrates very neatly how fucked labor/management relationships are in this country. What, a valuable employee thinks its people?!? Somebody beat it back into its cage to protect the company.

opium4themasses
5 years ago

@Cerebus It’s not that they are a valuable employee that is the issue. It’s the fact that they would be preventing other employees from improving their value and introducing risk to the company by hiding knowledge necessary to follow processes.

weirwoodtreehugger
5 years ago

I’m an outsider to reddit, but in principle I have an issue with their choice to give a platform to the very worst people in the world. So for me, it’s all just

http://media.giphy.com/media/mmaMTz2eOsucw/giphy.gif

http://persephonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/colbert-popcorn.gif

http://gifrific.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Maurice-Moss-Eating-Popcorn-The-IT-Crowd.gif

weirwoodtreehugger
5 years ago

What does it say about popular culture that when I Google image searched “popcorn gif” the vast majority of hits were of men eating popcorn. Women don’t eat! Unless they’re eating salad and laughing of course. Sigh.

Pie
Pie
5 years ago

“Honestly, the fact that the IAMA had to shut down shows the the real reason she was sacked – she was silo-building (hoarding knowledge in a misguided effort to protect her employment.)”

What the fuck? Are you seriously suggesting that she was fired for *being competent at her job*?

As the IAMA folk said themselves, running that subreddit was very hard, and really needed official support. They’ve suffered without it in the past, and they don’t want a repeat of that.

It isn’t like there’s anything arcane about being organised and working hard, and I fail to see how IAMA could have needed some kind of secret handshake or esoteric knowledge.

zyvlyn
zyvlyn
5 years ago

This is a real shame, as the AMAs were one of the few things reddit had going that they could point to to show that they weren’t just a collection of the detritus of humanity.

Ryan Sample
Ryan Sample
5 years ago

Well, this seems like Reddit’s death throes for now.
Kind of reminds me of a line from Watch_Dogs (edited to remove spoilers):
Reddit: What are you doing?
Futrelle: Watching an old man die.

lith
5 years ago

@WWTH:

It’s interesting what image searches tell you about defaults for things.
Searching for “woman” brings up almost exclusively white women.
“man” again almost exclusively white.
“person” has the vast majority as men or boys.

Cerberus
5 years ago

opium4themasses-

Yeah, see that doesn’t make much sense to me. I mean, if one single employee can have arcane knowledge of how your company does an essential task that is a gross failure of management and a sign that the management not the employee should be sacked.

I mean, that’s the point of management (theoretically, I understand in practice the role of management is to abuse and mistreat employees to steal every fraction of a cent from labor that they can). To train employees on company processes, to make sure there are no dead-ends where only a small number of employees or company personnel have access to crucial information, and to ensure employees and happy motivated and able to perform their roles at peak efficiency.

One employee naively trying to protect their job by making sure they are important to the company: a) shouldn’t have universal and sole access to crucial information in the first place, and b) should have long before been intervened for so that they weren’t as scared that a turbulent work place would lose them their job.

And a) is rather critical here because it reveals the way that management has yet again found a way to blame labor for its failures. Because the only way a) happens is if 1) The employee came up with the knowledge in the first place in which case, holy crap why weren’t you rewarding that go-getterness enough for the employee to feel comfortable letting you have complete access to that knowledge pool or 2) The processes are so broken that individual staff can have access to critical knowledge because management is completely incompetent.

There’s pretty much no method by which someone who isn’t admin to begin with should be primarily at fault for that situation occurring and it seems like its application is a neat way to justify firing over-performing over-competent staff in order to reduce that staff member’s bargaining power in labor negotiations and limit the impact of a potential unionization or strike.

Pie
Pie
5 years ago

It seems entirely more plausible that she either a) fucked up bad or b) pissed off management.

But I guess, given the pathological inability of reddit employees to speak to their users, perhaps “having the ability to talk to users and real people outside of the company” *was* the secret knowledge that reddit management couldn’t work out for themselves.

isidore13
isidore13
5 years ago

I wish that gif of Richard Ayoade included the bit with him saying ‘Go on.’

Prios
Prios
5 years ago

It appears that this protest has a lot to do with moderators being frustrated towards the admins in general, beyond Victoria’s disappearance. GamerGhazi (which is back up) outlined some of the grievances here: https://np.reddit.com/r/GamerGhazi/comments/3c0atn/on_the_topic_of_our_blackout/

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

Here’s the thing.

Tomorrow morning, Taylor could register http://www.IAmA.com, hire some web designers and sysadmins, and pick up where she left off. If the entire AMA business was as dependent on her as it sounds, then she might only need a week or two before all the traffic shifts to her new site. We’ve all seen how quickly internet communities move, and there are already a lot of people talking about abandoning reddit. Word of mouth might be enough. She wouldn’t even be beset by many of the same issues that reddit has been: fatpeoplehate and redpill are not, to my knowledge, hotbeds of AMAs. She would be stealing the best bits of reddit and leaving them the toxic remainder.

In a very real sense, reddit never had an AMA business at all: Taylor had an AMA business, and reddit simply provided the webhosting for it. If she decides to get her webhosting from somewhere else, then reddit will end up with nothing.

reddit’s mistake was letting it get to this stage. They should have given her underlings and staffers who would assist her and thereby learn her trade, so that if and when she left they could replace her. Instead, she was the one who made it all work, and now they’re left with nothing except a bunch of disgruntled mods.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
5 years ago
Bina
Bina
5 years ago

What does it say about popular culture that when I Google image searched “popcorn gif” the vast majority of hits were of men eating popcorn. Women don’t eat! Unless they’re eating salad and laughing of course. Sigh.

It’s like they expect women to enjoy being on a perpetual starvation diet. Someone please remind them that woman does not live by salad alone, not even if she’s vegan.

Hambeast, Social Justice Road Warrior
Hambeast, Social Justice Road Warrior
5 years ago

Yeah, see that doesn’t make much sense to me. I mean, if one single employee can have arcane knowledge of how your company does an essential task that is a gross failure of management and a sign that the management not the employee should be sacked.

This is kind of happening where I work. I’m the only one at my store that does a certain task. At intervals during the last five or so years that I’ve been doing this task, I have approached management with the idea that someone should be trained to back me up. Some of them make noises about doing it without ever doing anything, but mostly they just blow me off. The result is that if I’m out sick, the task simply doesn’t get done (and it’s something that’s mandated by corporate, which is a risk for the store manager if it’s not done, albeit only if they get caught) and if I leave, someone has to step in with very little training and usually a great unwillingness to do this particular task.

This doesn’t make much sense to me, either. But then again, retail management means juggling a great many things at the same time while keeping the wage slaves in line and also appeasing the corporate types simultaneously.

Fortunately for me, I guess as long as I’m willing to keep this from being another fire for them to put out, they’re happy to ignore me. I other words, I’m not in much danger of being sacked. Well, not for being the only one to do this particular task, anyway. ;P

Falconer
5 years ago

Dammit, now I want popcorn.

Sarah
Sarah
5 years ago

Thanks for giving the summary on what was happening. I was really confused about what was going on with this #RedditRevolt business, and it didn’t help to look at it as it was filtered by gamergaters, whom I don’t believe or engage on any subject.

Sarah
Sarah
5 years ago

Once more, Reddit eats its own ass. Racism and misogyny are okay, but a co-ordinator having independent (and sensible) ideas about bad management decisions? NOPE. Says it all, really.

And what was really funny (in a leave-a-bad-taste-in-your-mouth funny) is that if, in fact, this woman was fired over the Jackson AMA because she did, in fact, censor the nasty question which was being directed at her VIP guest, they fired her for doing the best she could with the situation they handed her. What was she supposed to do, allow those questions to get through to him? They won’t be able to get AMAs and other interactions with major public figures if those public figures feel that they are being subject to gratuitous trolling – and that’s something that can spread to other social media. While the John Green brouhaha was going on I saw someone comment that this was why J.D. Salinger spent so much of his life as a recluse.

Robert
Robert
5 years ago

People actually work for Reddit? I thought they just summoned evil spirits and had them possess corpses until they fell apart.

davidgerard
5 years ago

> People actually work for Reddit? I thought they just summoned evil spirits and had them possess corpses until they fell apart.

That’s pretty much the process, but it’s Silicon Valley so there was equity involved too.