Elevating discourse- even on the Internet

I’m the senior moderator at the reddit community NeutralPolitics, which started last year and now has over 27,000 subscribers. We’ve been relatively successful at promoting empirical, thoughtful political discussion. The Internet is well-known for being a cesspool when it comes to talking about serious subjects, but with thoughtful policy and active moderation, you can create a quality space.

A few months ago, a user named Gnome came to us asking for a special dispensation so he could post more frequently at NeutralPolitics. reddit operates on a karma system; if you have very low karma (because your comments are viewed by the community to be low-quality) you can’t post very quickly. He had over -1300 karma, which is impressive. Very few people keep accounts with a score that low- they just make a new one to eliminate the hassle.

We told him that he needed to improve his tone and gain respect from others with his ideas. Several of the moderators gave him advice and encouragement on the matter. And sure enough, he took to the task. His karma rose rapidly, and his posts weren’t getting reported by others.

As it became apparent that Gnome was soon enough going to get in the black, we decided to pitch in and get a gift for him. Today, he broke into positive figures and we gave him a year of ‘reddit gold’- a enhanced version of the website.

Author: AJM

Writer, sociologist, Unitarian Universalist.

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