Monday, April 29, 2013

Yes Virginia, Reddit is full of shit

For me, I found a slight sense of satisfaction from the beating Reddit took for the r/FindBostonBombers subreddit in which Reddit users attempted to solve the Boston bombing, to embarrassing effect. I have been of the opinion that Reddit, and the whole "crowdsourced" band wagon at large, have been overdue for a serious reality check. However, I realize even this fiasco isn't going to slow down Reddit or the momentum for "crowdsourced" information.

There's an interesting psychology in how people tend to trust sites like Reddit that reminds me of conspiracy theory psychology known as “motivated reasoning:"

The Millennial Generation (age 18-30) rely on user-generated content (USG) to make decisions. Online opinions [like those on Reddit] have a greater impact on their decisions than recommendations from friends and families. By contrast, Boomers (born between roughly 1946 and 1964) are almost twice as likely to favor recommendations from friends and family over UGC.  

The popularity of Reddit (in particular) shows just how badly this has gotten, how much people mistrust mainstream information sources, even when the beloved "crowdsourced" information proves to be so bad.

I don't see that changing after the Boston Marathon witch hunt. This is a deep mistrust. Traditional media has got work to do to get back in the good graces of younger people.

For my part, I think this episode provides good reason to take a second look at the trend toward assuming because data is crowdsourced, it must be accurate. And further, in case you were still not sure, it's time to accept the truth that Reddit is full of shit.