Chances are if you went on Reddit this past week, things seemed out of sorts. Many of the major subreddits had been shut down or made private and everyone was talking about controversy and, once again, quitting Reddit.
The reason behind the hullaballoo? The mysterious dismissal of Victoria Taylor, Director of Communications — likely the third most well-known team member at Reddit and the best liked one by far. Responsible for coordinating with moderators on large subreddits as well as working with the celebrities who popped on for AMA’s, Victoria became a beloved institution on the site in front of the curtains and behind them.
With her dismissal for reasons Alexis Ohanian, Reddit’s cofounder, refuses to discuss, it essentially threw the site into conflict and uncertainty. There was no guidance system for some of the major subreddits like r/science, r/books and r/IAMA, and as a result, they weren’t certain about how to govern themselves properly and decided to private their subreddits. Basically, whole giant components of Reddit became unavailable to access — not good.
Communicating to the heavy-use Redditors, Alexis had this to say on the matter in his weekly newsletter:
“We know we’ve done a pretty terrible job at communicating. We know a lot of things on the site don’t work as well as you—and we—would like. We know there are a lot more issues and that the community as a whole is pretty unhappy with us right now.
I know apologies and promises feel empty right now, but that’s all I can give—with the additional promise that we really do mean it. We’ve recently hired a product manager for the community team who is working on new tools. We’re actively working on brigading. We’re figuring out solutions to improve modmail. But it takes time to make these changes, so they won’t be here tomorrow. But they will be here.
We’re sorry. And we’re going to do better.”
It is seen as another major misstep under Reddit CEO Ellen Pao’s tenure by many. Initially, her team was behind the shuttering of major hate-based sites like r/fatpeoplehate. While vicious, the site’s were accepted by many as the dark side of free speech. With their closing, it made Reddit seem almost closed-minded and reminded many that it is a private company.
While order has since been restored to the site mostly, it will be interesting to see if more details come out regarding Victoria Taylor’s controversial dismissal … too bad she won’t likely be doing an AMA to clarify.