SXSW session on Reddit misses opportunity for thoughtful discussion

The South by Southwest panel, “It’s Reddit’s World; We Just Live in It,” set out to answer a tough question: “How is Reddit’s power altering Web culture — and should we celebrate it, or fear it?”

The either/or setup of the question was reflective of the divide between audience members and the panelists — Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, Skepchick’s Rebecca Watson, and Gawker’s Adrain Chen, who wrote the controversial piece about Reddit troll Michael Brutsch. The panelists seemed more fearful of Reddit than audience members were, and at times they classified Reddit users as bigoted, racist and “hyperskeptical.”

There is an “overwhelming amount of sexism and racism and any other -ism you can name” on the site, Watson told the crowd.

The panelists did highlight some positive aspects of the Reddit community, such as Redditors’ efforts to raise money for a bullied bus monitor. But their overall attitude was negative.

Participants told them as much on Twitter and during a Q&A session; they criticized the panelists for not taking a more balanced approach and for implying that Reddit is the only place online where racism and sexism live. The conversation was a reminder that there are those who embrace social media sites and those who view them with skepticism.

Skepticism can be healthy, unless it limits your ability to see a social network’s potential or causes you to generalize: “Reddit is a site for bigots and racists”; “Pinterest is for girly girls, not men“; “Twitter is a site where people announce what they had for lunch.” These generalizations make it too easy to pigeonhole and dismiss social media sites, and they can ultimately stifle innovation.

When I interviewed The New York Times’ C.J. Chivers for a story about Pinterest last year, he said: “Social media is a tool, like many others in our trade — it can be as good and as useful as we force it to be.”

Here’s a look at how the “Reddit Roast” played out:

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  • hoogli
  • hoogli

    Are there any Reddit users here who would be interested in a bookmarklet that turns a Reddit comment thread into an image galllery? Here is a random example of what I mean:

    As you can see, the gallery includes reaction images that were originally posted in the thread as text links. It also sizes images so they are close to a one-to-one mapping to screen pixels.

    I would appreciate your feedback on whether this is something you would consider adding to your Instapaper article view and PrinterFriendly bookmarklets as another different way of looking at web pages. I am trying to follow the lean startup approach of gather user opinions as early as possible and putting out an MVP / MVR to test the core idea.

    If you are intrigued by the concept, you can read more at the website I have put up to explain it:

    Many thanks,

    Andrew Cox

  • Dubstep Dad

    All three panelists are active reddit users. They said so at the beginning of the talk and all three write about reddit regularly. You clearly misstate this in this article. Please research that pount, sont simply take the word of angry twitter users.

  • Fuck You Raw Story

    Since I wasn’t at SXSW, I wish you had gone through the claims the panelists made and seen if there was any validity or not to them. Perhaps answer the question, the panel was announced six months ago, did Watson’s claims seem to have been conceived back then? In the past few weeks, or just same old same old projected onto Reddit?

  • Axel Blaster

    information want’s to be free. take the good, the bad and the ugly.