This situation with Reddit has exploded since I last wrote on Journal. And to be clear, this was absolutely recoverable. Apologizing and lowering the costs for all developers — who were willing to pay a price “based in reality” — would’ve been a step in the right direction. Instead, the pricing is just as insane as Twitter’s, and the company has been directed internally to just ship what they said they were, and block out the noise. (Oh, and employees were also told not to wear company merch in public, either.)
As is probably not a shock to literally anyone, Steve Huffman (u/spez) decided to dig his heels in and ignore absolutely everyone. And for transparency: I’ve sent two emails to an address I believe is his — but no, he hasn’t responded.
I’ve been keeping score of the things Steve Huffman has stated vs. reality, and I have to be completely honest, I have no confidence in Reddit as a company. I have no confidence that an IPO will be successful, either. Not under Huffman’s direction, anyway… The man can’t stop telling half-truths and lies. (I’m frankly surprised Reddit’s legal and PR teams haven’t told him to shut up in the nicest way possible, yet, so that they can do the talking.)
But, I digress. Here are some examples of him telling a half-truth, or blatantly lying:
- Huffman stated that he respected the community’s right to protest, however, that’s not true — in fact, his platform is currently threatening to rip subreddit mods of the powers and install new mod teams. Make no mistake, this particular kind of mistruth is both a scare tactic and something he will act on, too.
- He stated that the blackouts are “The blackouts are not representative of the greater Reddit community. Users may have been for this on Monday, they’re not for it now,” which isn’t exactly true, either. He should tell that to the thousands and thousands of downvotes on his AMA comments.
- I’m not sure what data he’s leaning on here, if the data exists, something internal or external, but even the top section of r/memes was drowning in posts criticizing him and the company after it reopened today.
- Huffman stated the API was “never designed to support third party apps” and whilst I do kind of believe that, it’s not entirely true. Reddit’s own app was Alien Blue prior to Reddit buying it and rebadging it as their own. And according to a Reddit employee, Huffman himself allegedly said he liked what Chirstian Selig’s Apollo back when it launched, and was offered employment at the company. (Selig, of course, declined.)
In addition, Huffman praised Elon Musk’s “handling” of Twitter and also admitted the two have chatted before, the actions of whom has mostly been met with multiple widespread outages and severe backlash. All of which has culminated in a dwindling user base that, of course, inadvertently put the wind in the sail of Mastodon, one of many decentralized alternatives to Twitter that’s part of the (now humongous) “fediverse.” (I hate Twitter so much that I really only use it to keep up with friends. Why Huffman wants to emulate this sort of chaotic culture at Reddit is beyond me. It’s not a good thing at all.)
Alternative platforms, like kbin and Squabbles, are already having the wind put in their sails because of this. Perhaps that’s a good thing, because I’m not entirely convinced Steve Huffman cares, or wants, his community to stick around.
It’s not just the third-party apps issue anymore. It’s the way Huffman lies and manages his company that’s a huge part of the issue. The fact of the matter is… well, basically everywhere you look, someone’s unhappy with Steve Huffman and Reddit, the company. No matter what Huffman says, that itself is the truth.
In hindsight, I don’t believe social media — Reddit included — should ever have been centralized and closed-source. If it was decentralized and open-source like the fediverse and internet at large is, we would never have had this sort of thing happen. I also don’t believe we should’ve let Reddit become the information destination. Seriously, the quality of search results on Google has plummeted because of the blackouts. Information should be free and open to all, much like Tim Berners-Lee’s initial proposition for what would become The Internet.
The thing we need to realize is that Steve Huffman has no idea what Reddit, the community, is like anymore. He barely uses his own platform… seriously, look at his profile, the last post prior to the AMA was 11 months prior.
I just don’t see how anyone, not even Reddit’s Board, could see him as a believable or competent person who can serve as CEO to Reddit the company, or the de facto ambassador of Reddit the community. He’s completely out of touch with the latter, but too in touch with the former. Honestly, he should resign or find the proper balance for being in touch with both.