Reddit may not have had a cheery, beer-soaked long weekend like the rest of us: On Friday, the online community found itself at the mercy of its own moderators, when almost 300 subreddits, most notably the popular “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) forum, were temporarily shuttered in response to Reddit’s dismissal of talent director Victoria Taylor the day prior. The subreddits steadily began to reopen over the weekend, but the protest seemed to spur on support for a Change.org petition calling for Reddit CEO Ellen Pao’s resignation.
“I want to apologize for how we handled the transition yesterday,” Pao said in a statement issued Friday. “We should have informed the moderators earlier and provided more detail on the transition plan. We are working to make improvements and create the best experience for our users and we aren’t always perfect. Our community is what makes Reddit, Reddit and we let you down.”
Taylor had a reputation for being loved by the site’s many volunteer moderators, in large part because she was especially responsive to questions and concerns. She also helped coordinate and schedule many high-profile AMAs, legitimizing the subreddit with interviewees like President Obama.
Pao posted to Reddit on Friday, directly addressing the community incensed by her actions:
“The bigger problem is that we haven’t helped our moderators with better support after many years of promising to do so. We do value moderators; they allow reddit to function and they allow each subreddit to be unique and to appeal to different communities. This year, we have started building better tools for moderators and for admins to help keep subreddits and reddit awesome, but our infrastructure is monolithic, and it is going to take some time. We hired someone to product manage it, and we moved an engineer to help work on it. We hired 5 more people for our community team in total to work with both the community and moderators. We are also making changes to reddit.com, adding new features like better search and building mobile web, but our testing plan needs improvement. As a result, we are breaking some of the ways moderators moderate. We are going to figure this out and fix it.”
At the time of writing, the petition calling for Pao to resign has drawn more than 190,000 signatures from disgruntled users who feel Pao “has overstepped her boundaries” and “will run Reddit into the ground.”
The number of signatures grew exponentially after Taylor’s firing, but more than 10,000 users had already pledged their support for the petition beforehand, citing concerns of censorship after Pao introduced stricter anti-harassment policies and removed five subreddits that were in violation of those guidelines. (The community manager of image site Imgur, which is widely used to share photos and GIFs to Reddit, came under fire recently as well for enforcing content guidelines.)
The AMA subreddit, in particular, benefitted greatly from Taylor’s work during her time at Reddit: Its moderators noted in a post that she had been “a pillar of the AMA community and responsible for nearly all of reddit’s positive press.”
According to The New York Times, Pao has promised that a team of Reddit employees will work exclusively with the AMA crew. The subreddit’s moderators added that Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian had reached out over the weekend, in a preliminary effort to smooth the transition and put into place a new workflow for scheduling and hosting AMAs.
Update 7/6/2015 3:10 p.m. ET: Pao has posted an apology on Reddit, in which she acknowledges an ongoing lack of communication:
“We screwed up. Not just on July 2, but also over the past several years. We haven’t communicated well, and we have surprised moderators and the community with big changes. We have apologized and made promises to you, the moderators and the community, over many years, but time and again, we haven’t delivered on them. When you’ve had feedback or requests, we haven’t always been responsive. The mods and the community have lost trust in me and in us, the administrators of reddit.”
Pao goes on to say that Reddit will work to improve search, tools, and communication. In another comment, she also explained why she has not been more vocal on Reddit over the past few days: “It was hard to communicate on the site, because my comments were being downvoted.”
[via The Guardian]