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Wed December 5, 2012

5 Reasons To Dip A Toe Into Reddit

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 12:29 pm

Dallas wraps up its first Digital Summit today, and Tuesday’s festivities kicked off with a keynote address by Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian.

Reddit is a social media site/aggregator that calls itself the “Front Page of the Internet” and has built a fanatically devoted following.

For the uninitiated, Reddit can seem daunting, with its basic interface, layers of links and tough-to-decipher language. [A warning: A lot of that language is profane, so be aware when clicking on some of the links below.] But here are five reasons why you should dive -- or at least dip a toe -- into Reddit.

1. Reddit gives power to the people

So that jumbled front page and endless flow of links? Founder Alexis Ohanian argues that's a product of  Reddit’s dedication to democracy. Here’s how it works: You post anything you want. Your fellow users decide how much attention your post gets, by “voting it up” or down. The more votes and comments a post gets, the higher its position on the page. Sounds like a marketer’s dream, right? Not quite. Promotional links often face the wrath of Reddit community and are usually down-voted to oblivion. Woody Harrelson apparently tried too hard to promote one of his films during a Q&A session, prompting a backlash from Reddit users and a PR fiasco for Harrelson.

2. It’s not just ‘meme’ heaven.

Yes, Reddit’s the home of many a “meme” -- the funny photos, crazy videos and crude humor that spread across Facebook and Twitter like a virus. But Reddit has also proved its worth as a newsgathering site. Last summer, after a shooter gunned down dozens of moviegoers in Aurora, Colo., an 18-year-old “Redditor” named Morgan Jones scooped many bigger media operations by using the site to compile personal accounts in real time and getting other users to contribute what they knew.

3. You might hear from someone who’ll surprise you.

Reddit hosts Q&A sessions with folks from all walks of life who answer questions from the site’s users. Called AMAs (short for Ask Me Anything), they range in tone from the humorous, to the shocking, to the depressingly sad. AMA subjects have ranged from Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings, a guy who said he played a Power Rangers villain and a longtime McDonald’s worker. Even President Obama jumped in: His August AMA set Reddit traffic records.

4. You might get to feel like the the coolest kid on the block

It can be tough to get your bearings on Reddit, with the amount of text that greets you on the front page. But spend a little bit of time and it starts to make sense. The front page shows you what links the Reddit community is talking about, or up-voting, the most. A click on the “New” tab will show you what’s just been posted, often in the last few seconds. It might take a while to find something worthwhile that way, but if you want to see what’s getting a little bit of buzz, just click the “rising” link. And if you want to focus locally, go to the site’s Dallas subReddit. And feel free to drop “Reddit” into that watercooler conversation at the office.

5. On Reddit, no one knows you’re a dog.

Unlike Facebook, Reddit users are free to use anonymous identities to post and comment on links. So the site’s been accused of being a bastion of misogynistic, homophobic and racist content. Reddit has begun to address some of these criticisms and created a subReddit (subcategory) where users can vent about objectionable postings and comments from other users, with moderators who help facilitate discussion.

Ohanian argues that anonymity allows users to have honest discussions that they wouldn’t necessarily have on Facebook. His point: Most people are decent human beings. One popular Reddit feature that backs up that view is the Random Acts of Pizza. It basically allows random strangers to either donate pizzas or ask to receive them.

Copyright 2012 KERA-FM. To see more, visit http://www.kera.org/.

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