Reddit doesn’t get its hivemind reputation for nothing. It is very well known that information cascades or “herding” is super prevalent but until recently not too many studies have been done and reddit hasn’t released their own internal data either. But first, for those that don’t know the website too well, reddit.com is a website where users can either up vote or down vote user posted content and threads. Reddit then uses an algorithm so that visitors to the site will see the most upvoted and “hot” topics on the front page while the most disliked by the reddit community are relegated to the dark corners of web space.
But enough about the boring mechanics of Reddit. What is truly interesting is that a group of researchers have released an extensive study on Reddit’s voting system. And what does it prove? Turns out people are no better than sheep. When things are upvoted, users are also more likely to upvote. Especially when Louis C.K, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Riot Game’s dumb decisions on their massive multiplayer game League of Legends is involved. The most fascinating part of the study is that when new threads were given a false positive vote, it generated an incredible snowball effect of 32%. Meanwhile if a brand new reddit thread was given an immediate false negative vote, the results were not as apparent as an information cascade was less likely to occur. But this makes sense! As stated in a recent USC study positive emotions are more contagious than negative ones. As a motto to live by, you can never trust the taste of other people’s dislike.
Another interesting aspect is voter manipulation of Reddit’s algorithm. Companies have started to realize that if they post content on reddit and pay people to just upvote continuously then more and more people can enjoy that great 40 second ad within a 1 minute video. While reddit says they have weeded out most of the biggest perpetrators of this practice, there is a way around it which is not as widely known. Since the first few votes are so incredibly important to creating a snowball effect, there is a way to remain somewhat undetected when upvoting one’s own content: use the search tool. If one searches for your thread through keywords that are relevant to many other threads and use the filters to find one’s specific thread then voila: voter manipulation. Although one can’t do this gather a massive amount of upvotes, it does allow threads an edge over the competition, especially as those first few votes matter so much in creating that snowball effect.