Reddit announced its annual awards yesterday, and as the names piled up, one thing became very clear: The big winner this year wasn’t a person or a group.
It was a concept, of sorts: Reddit as a platform for social learning online.
The science community at r/askscience picked up two awards—one for best big community, and another for best moderators. Meanwhile, judgment-free question section r/explainlikeimfive won out as best new community. And astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s live interview earned the best submission nod.
Redditors voted for the winners in January. The awards should have been announced in early Febraury. But Erik Martin, Reddit’s general manager, said the site’s blackout protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act delayed the announcement.
Even if you’re a Reddit regular, you may be a little unfamiliar with the winners. So below, we've laid why each deserves the recognition.
No community speaks better to Reddit’s power as a social-learning platform than r/askscience, a place where real and usually quite erudite scientists answer any ignorant question tossed their way. As the moderators will tell you, no question is too stupid for r/askscience, because no question is really stupid. So feel free to ask about bacteria on toilet seats, the size of whale sperm, or double-yoked eggs. Just don’t spout off your opinion without providing evidence. The greatest sin in this subreddit is speculation with evidence. The subreddit’s whip-cracking moderators also picked up the “best moderator” award, something they very much deserve: r/askscience is an educational gem, not just Reddit, but for the Internet at large.
If the name isn’t explicit enough for you, let us explain: the guy comments all in capital letters, usually with a parting touch of politeness. That’s his schtick—but he’s mixed it with enough good humor and charm to win over Reddit’s rage comic community, r/fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu/. So why all caps? As he told the Daily Dot last year: “I JUST THOUGHT TO MYSELF, ‘WHAT IS A WAY THAT I COULD POST THAT WOULD MAKE A FEW PEOPLE SMILE MORE THAN AVERAGE?’ AND BEING POLITE WHILE TYPING IN ALL CAPS SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA. IT'S NOT SO MUCH ABOUT LAUGHS AS IT IS THAT SMILE."
Rule34 is an Internet axiom: If it exists, there’s porn for it. Novelty account relevant_rule34 is a kind of constant proof of the rule. If you leave a vaguely sexual comment on Reddit, he will find porn to match it. It’s actually a bit unfair to label relevant_rule34 a novelty account. There’s an elegant porn philosophy behind his apparent madness. As he wrote more than a year ago: “Nothing can be safe from Rule 34. Nothing. Because nothing is safe from human sexuality. There are no limits or boundaries or fixed compartments we are born into or stay in. Yet, it is a message we never remember, because we are so concerned about how others will judge us and our sexualities.”
Reddit’s user interface is limited, clunky, and old. It’s hardly been updated in the six years since it was created. That’s why the third-party Reddit Enhancement Suite (RES) is such a neceessity for redditors. We’re not at all surprised that RES’ creator, honestbleeps, won out as Reddit’s all-around hero of 2011. In December, we named him and his partner, solidwhetstone, as two of most influential redditors of the year.
You may be surprised to know that Reddit’s r/malefashionadvice community is both huge (20,000 readers) and quite good. Like r/askscience, it’s an example of how redditors use the site as a platform for self-improvement. Still, it was a bit of a surprise to see veroz, an r/malefashionadvice moderator, come away with submitter of the year. Reddit’s male fashionistas clearly take care of their own.
Astrophysicist and educator Neil DeGrasse Tyson has a soft spot for redditors, and the feeling is mutual. Tyson’s live interview back in November was a huge success—so popular, in fact, that he returned a month later to do all over again. Only Ken Jennings’ AMA (“ask me anything”) has received more upvotes. But redditors chose Tyson’s as their favorite submission of the year. Maybe it was thanks to his AMA double-dipping. Or maybe it because, while Jennings’ answers were often hilarious, they hardly matched Tyson’s for educational and philosophical profundity.
Started by special education teacher Brandon Elliot in July, r/explainlikeimfive rocketed to popularity, becoming the fastest growing subreddit in Reddit’s history. The concept is as simple as the name suggests: ask your fellow redditors to distill complicated concepts or events into language a child can understand. Nowadays responses are rarely written in a style an actual five-year-old could understand (a teenager might stand a better shot), but the format still works. If you’re embarrassed to be clueless about something, r/explainlikeimfive is a shame-free place to ask.
It’s a little silly to ask people to vote on their favorite local community. (How many people subscribe to r/chicago who don’t have a connection to the city?) So the results are necessarily partisan. But at the Daily Dot we’ve seen first hand some of r/chicago’s awesomeness, from an urban adventure for lost glasses to an epic house party and rock show starring a neon Reddit alien. As Reddit staff member Kristine Smith noted: “/r/Chicago has the best meetups!” That’s the best compliment a local subreddit can get.
Redditor Wadsworrth’s theory of formulaic brevity captivated the social news site’s imagination this year—proving once and for all that redditors have a short or, rather, truncated attention span. “For every YouTube video, I always open the video and then immediately punch the slider bar to about 30 percent,” Wadsworth wrote, back in October. Quickly labeled the Wadsworth Constant by enterprising redditors, the theorem was quickly appropriated to just about everything: comments, stories, movies. It quickly picked up steam off Reddit and was later incorporated as an official part of YouTube’s code. In the awards thread, meanwhile, Reddit staff have been cutting out the first 30 percent of every comment: a great honor, no doubt, for Wadsworth believers.
How many lives has r/suicidewatch saved? It’s impossible to know, but at three years old and with nearly 10,000 members, there’s little doubt this subreddit has had a very real effect on the lives of very many people.