24 votes

The Rise of Reddit's Megathreads

Tags: reddit, meta

I originally posted this as a comment here but thought it might deserve it's own discussion.

I think that the rise of megathreads/ultrathreads/collections of threads on reddit has been a large detriment to the site.

I'm a mod for a few large subreddits that utilizes them (and I know a good portion of people reading Tildes right now are as well), and as time goes on I've started to dislike them more and more.

At first they were great - they seemed to silo off all the posts and noise that happened around an event, and made the lives of mods easier. Posts that should've been comments could now be removed, and the user could be pointed towards the megathread. Users could go back to the post and sort by new to see new posts, and know that they'd all have to do with that one topic.

I believe that this silo actually hurts the community, and especially the discussion around that original megathread, more than it helps. As modteams I think we underestimate the resilience of our communities, and their ability to put up with "noise" around an event.

The fact that we are in a subreddit dedicated to that cause should be silo enough - each post in that subreddit should be treated as an "atomic" piece of information, with the comments being branches. By relegating all conversation to a megathread we turn top level comments into that atomic piece of information, and subcomments into the branches.

But that's just a poor implementation of the original! There are some edge cases where this might make sense (take /r/politics, it wouldn't make sense to have 9 of the top 10 posts just be slightly reworded posts on the same issues), but I think this can be remedied by better duplication rules (consider all posts on a certain topic to be a repost, unless the new post has new or different information).

There is something to be said about the ability to generate a new, blank sheet of conversation with a post, that is not marred with previous information or anecdotes. New comments on a megathread post don't have that luxury, but new posts do.

Additionally, I feel like the way reddit originally conditioned us to view posts is to view them then not check them again (unless we interacted with someone in it or got a notification). This prevents potentially great (but late) content from gaining visibility, as a non-negligible portion of the population will still be browsing the subreddit, but will never click the post again.

19 comments

  1. [10]
    aphoenix
    (edited )
    Link
    Honestly, it kind of sounds like the subreddits you are talking about are misusing megathreads. I'm a mod in a Blizzard game related subreddit and when Blizzcon happens, we have a series of...

    Honestly, it kind of sounds like the subreddits you are talking about are misusing megathreads.

    I'm a mod in a Blizzard game related subreddit and when Blizzcon happens, we have a series of megathreads on the topic. These threads serve as a focal point for discussion that day but we do not remove other things that crop up outside of the megathread just because there is a megathread unless they are exact reposts of other things (by things I mean "other posts, which we didn't remove because of the megathread").

    I don't think megathreads should be an excuse to remove content, but a simple way to guide people towards the content on the subreddit.

    14 votes
    1. [6]
      jonluca
      Link Parent
      That's the sort of place that I actually believe should not have a mega thread. When the subreddit itself is general (like /r/politics, /r/news, etc) it can make sense - people visiting that...

      That's the sort of place that I actually believe should not have a mega thread.

      When the subreddit itself is general (like /r/politics, /r/news, etc) it can make sense - people visiting that community might not be interested in a deluge of information on something super specific, and a megathread comes in handy to centralize the conversation.

      However, with something like Blizzard, or Marvel Studios (a sub I mod), or really any active, specific community, corralling all posts to a single location actually hurts the conversation. The fact that there would be a lot of posts on the topic indicates that there is a strong desire to communicate and share information - especially since there's probably a significant portion of the population that is visiting the sub specifically because of that event.

      This isn't to say that you shouldn't remove some of these posts - for instance, if you have rules against reposts, or low effort content/memes, etc. It just means that removing all discussion and telling everyone to go to the megathread is simply 1. stifling discussion and 2. punishing late arrivers to the conversation.

      Also I'm not saying I'm necessarily right here - it's possible that, overall, megathreads are more useful than not, and my anecdotal experience and intuition is just wrong. We still use a ton of megathreads over in /r/marvelstudios, after all. This is just a sort of inkling I've been getting over the past few years, especially coming from the perspective of a user on certain subs and as a mod on others. Thanks for the conversation!

      8 votes
      1. [4]
        aphoenix
        Link Parent
        See in bold above, because I think you missed my point (or are just further agreeing with me): If you use megathreads as an excuse to excise massive amounts of links from your subreddit, then...

        See in bold above, because I think you missed my point (or are just further agreeing with me):

        we do not remove other things that crop up in the megathread

        If you use megathreads as an excuse to excise massive amounts of links from your subreddit, then generally you're doing it wrong. Megathreads should help people find all the other things that mods aren't removing because removing pertinent content is stupid.

        They should be used as an organizational and focal tool, not as a removal excuse.

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          jonluca
          Link Parent
          When you say "we do not remove other things that crop up in the megathread" do you mean you that you won't remove other posts in the subreddit that fall under the category of the megathread? As...

          When you say "we do not remove other things that crop up in the megathread" do you mean you that you won't remove other posts in the subreddit that fall under the category of the megathread?

          As in, let's say there's a Blizzcon MT. If someone also posts a screenshot of the new game as a standalone post, will you remove it and tell them to post it in the MT?

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            aphoenix
            Link Parent
            We would not remove the post. If someone reposted that same thing again, then we'd remove it as a repost. Ideally we would link to that post from the megapost, but we don't always find all the...

            We would not remove the post. If someone reposted that same thing again, then we'd remove it as a repost.

            Ideally we would link to that post from the megapost, but we don't always find all the threads to link to.

            1. jonluca
              Link Parent
              Oh then that's what I'd have in mind for MTs. As long as the new posts aren't removed then 100% - MTs are then being used as a central repository of discussion, not the central discussion.

              Oh then that's what I'd have in mind for MTs. As long as the new posts aren't removed then 100% - MTs are then being used as a central repository of discussion, not the central discussion.

              1 vote
      2. gurgle
        Link Parent
        Hmm what about /r/formula1, where on a Grand Prix weekend there are multiple megathreads for the different practice, qualifying and race sessions. They go a long way to keeping dozens of the same...

        Hmm what about /r/formula1, where on a Grand Prix weekend there are multiple megathreads for the different practice, qualifying and race sessions. They go a long way to keeping dozens of the same theads from appearing on the sub. I can kinda agree about the punishing latecomers point. But as the sessions only last a couple hours, this isn't a massive issue.

        2 votes
    2. Halfdeaf
      Link Parent
      That's a mega thread done right. Curation is very important is these kind of subs during events because people want to catch up fast if they are late to the game. There is plenty of space for...

      That's a mega thread done right. Curation is very important is these kind of subs during events because people want to catch up fast if they are late to the game. There is plenty of space for discussion in both the mega thread and related threads.

    3. [2]
      Luca
      Link Parent
      Oh hey, funny seeing you here, aphoenix. I was a regular poster on Tanking Tuesdays. Can confirm though, his subreddit did megathreads well. Plus, because they were scheduled, weekly discussions,...

      Oh hey, funny seeing you here, aphoenix. I was a regular poster on Tanking Tuesdays.

      Can confirm though, his subreddit did megathreads well. Plus, because they were scheduled, weekly discussions, it's one of the only (large) subreddits where I started to recognize people and see familiar names.

      1. aphoenix
        Link Parent
        Hey there! I was going to bring up the daily threads as another counterpoint - they're like "minimegathreads". We definitely don't remove other talk on the subjects, but we do help focus our...

        Hey there!

        I was going to bring up the daily threads as another counterpoint - they're like "minimegathreads". We definitely don't remove other talk on the subjects, but we do help focus our discussion daily on something. I think that it's a good model that a lot of subreddits could follow.

  2. [5]
    RapidEyeMovement
    Link
    Megathreads always seem to stifle discussion While each outlet will have the same general topic they will take there own nuanced look at it. A specific article will bring in it's own voice and...

    Megathreads always seem to stifle discussion

    While each outlet will have the same general topic they will take there own nuanced look at it. A specific article will bring in it's own voice and color to the discussion and it is generally tailored to it's audience.

    Megathreads smear that color until it is just a grey streak. It is just a headline with no substance or analysis of the world around it.

    Also in high volume post, the 1st couple of okay comments dominate the discussion sphere, taking the air out of the event being discussed.

    No real discussion happens about any of the individual articles being posted in main megathread.

    8 votes
    1. jonluca
      Link Parent
      This has been my exact experience. Complex, large topics become boiled down to a few top comments and their replies. The worst part about this, as well, is the fact that these top comments are...

      This has been my exact experience. Complex, large topics become boiled down to a few top comments and their replies.

      The worst part about this, as well, is the fact that these top comments are usually singular and short in nature. It's difficult to create content that resounds with everyone, or that everyone reading will enjoy. This makes it so that short quips, jokes, or the same sort of content makes it to the top, invariably. Don't get me wrong, these sorts of comments are fine - but only when they're not stifling the more in depth, thought out posts/comments. When they're what 90% of people will see they become a shallow reflection of the true thoughts of the community on the matter.

      Posts and comments might seem easy to dismiss at first, but they are the method in which information gets shared within a community. We have no perfect methodology to share ideologies, or even to discern which ones are most popular within a community, and the top 7 or 8 comments are really the lifeblood of these discussions. I think we are effectively cutting the discussions legs out from under it - cramping it into a small place, all for the sake of "cleaning the new queue" and making sure that users that don't want to see that content don't have to.

      5 votes
    2. [3]
      Archimedes
      Link Parent
      On the other hand, the majority of readers only read the headline anyway so it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a dozen thread on articles when very similar headlines, especially if the news is...

      On the other hand, the majority of readers only read the headline anyway so it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a dozen thread on articles when very similar headlines, especially if the news is a fairly straightforward set of facts that doesn't need a ton of context and analysis.

      3 votes
      1. RapidEyeMovement
        Link Parent
        I would also argue that the majority of those readers, who only read the headline, only vote and don't comment, I'm looking to increase the conversation, and by sticking the conversation in one...

        I would also argue that the majority of those readers, who only read the headline, only vote and don't comment, I'm looking to increase the conversation, and by sticking the conversation in one larege consolidated thread, it stifles conversation, because nuanced discussions cannot be had.

        1 vote
      2. UrsulaMajor
        Link Parent
        I think this kind of behavior is exactly what ~ is trying to avoid

        On the other hand, the majority of readers only read the headline anyway

        I think this kind of behavior is exactly what ~ is trying to avoid

        1 vote
  3. [3]
    EightRoundsRapid
    Link
    Reddit can do what it wants. It's irrelevant to how I use tildes. Not having a pop at you OP, more just venting a little bit of frustration at all the ~TheoryOfReddit type discussions I keep...

    Reddit can do what it wants. It's irrelevant to how I use tildes.

    Not having a pop at you OP, more just venting a little bit of frustration at all the ~TheoryOfReddit type discussions I keep seeing on a site I want to use to get away from all this navel gazing and pontificating.

    I get that I could have just moved on and ignored this thread, but then the next reddit-centric thread would irk me as well, and on it would go. Hopefully I've got this out my system now and won't feel the need to whinge again.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      Mechangel
      Link Parent
      I understand that it's frustrating to see these types of discussions on Tildes when many of us came here to get away from Reddit. I also think that it's probably important that we have them so...

      I understand that it's frustrating to see these types of discussions on Tildes when many of us came here to get away from Reddit. I also think that it's probably important that we have them so that Tildes doesn't mirror Reddit and/or Reddit's mistakes. Many of the conversations I'm watching are like this one, and are in the vein of, "How do we prevent ourselves from doing this thing that Reddit does that I don't really like?"

      5 votes
      1. EightRoundsRapid
        Link Parent
        Yeah, I completely understand this. Like I say, hopefully I've got it out my system now and won't be bothered by these posts again.

        Yeah, I completely understand this.

        Like I say, hopefully I've got it out my system now and won't be bothered by these posts again.

        2 votes
  4. Amarok
    Link
    Let's ask a different question - can we make megathreads better? I think so. For starters, how about a merge threads feature? Yeah, a radical idea I know - forum technology from 1997. This would...

    Let's ask a different question - can we make megathreads better? I think so.

    For starters, how about a merge threads feature? Yeah, a radical idea I know - forum technology from 1997. This would take a lot of work off of the editor's hands - just select the threads and click merge, then boom - all the comments are in a new home, and all the links are cleaned up and presented at the top. Once the thread exists, users can even submit new links directly to the megathread instead of out in the group. We could even allow voting on the links to let the community sort their order.

    As for comment sorting, we can devise ways of handling the megathread comment chains that prevent it from being a stale discussion, promoting turnover and some amount of randomization so other comments get a shot even if they come in late. We can also give the megathreads more life than reddit's short 24-hour turnover provides, and that's probably ideal for major events.

    I didn't like megathreads at first, but after seeing how they play out in /r/politics it's kinda awesome seeing the entire media sphere's reaction at a glance. Good articles get praise, bad ones get mockery. We can help facilitate that sort of thing.

    1 vote