Reddit’s new CEO doesn’t want you to be nice.
Yishan Wong has been a redditor for five years. But he’s spent most of his commenting energy recently at question site Quora. There, he led a popular uprising, of sorts, against the site’s most basic commenting rule: “Be nice.”
“One dictionary definition of ‘nice’” Wong began in his excoriating post from Sep. 9, 2011, “is ‘pleasing, agreeable, or amiable.’ These things are not conducive to serious and civil discussion, or an effective search for the truth. In fact, it is actively harmful and one of the most perniciously destructive.”
He continued in a follow-up post:
“The discussion of controversial topics cannot happen if there is a requirement to be nice. Controversial topics are controversial because they make people uncomfortable. They are intrinsically neither pleasing nor agreeable. In fact, they are unpleasant and disagreeable. Sorting them out, or at least elucidating truths from the hot emotions that surround them requires a willingness to plunge into the unpleasantness and disagreements. Being nice stands in the way of that.”
Wong suggested turning the rule to “be civil” or “be respectful.” Beyond that, he figured “be nice” was best left to an informal rule set: an etiquette system, “e.g. reddiquette,” he suggested, presciently.
From his comments yesterday, we know very little about what Wong intends to do differently at Reddit. He even said he’s “not looking to implement any ‘big, bold new directions’ or redesigns.”
But from his Quora campaign, it’s pretty clear that Wong gets Reddit. He understands the site’s biggest strength is that gives its users the power to control content and discourse. There are very few rules on Reddit. And there’s certainly no requirement to be nice.
It was a dream week for geeks at r/IAmA.
The section saw visits from the likes of Stephen Wolfram (former child genius and the guy behind Wolfram Alpha), video game designer Tim Schafer (who made some of the greatest computer games ever, including Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island 2, and Fandango), and the development team behind the next SimCity game.
(If only every week fit into such a nice thematic trend, my job writing this column would be much, much easier.)