Mobbed By Moderation: A Cause of Failure

Dec 16, 2022
10 min

You spend a double digit number of hours and a three digit dollar amount creating content for a community. When you are finished, excitement rushes across your body. You did it! It’s time to share it with the world. So you attempt to do that and are met with this…

Message from r/venturecapital moderator removing post of SwitchUpCB

More on that later.

The Mob

Moderation is an important job. The goal of this article is NOT to discredit moderators or the work that they do in order to keep communities enjoyable. With that being said, it’s inevitable for contributors to conflict with moderators from time to time. This article outlines my struggles with moderators as part of the 1%.

What is the 1% Rule?

The 1% rule (of Internet Culture) outlines the phenomenon where 1% of users create content while 99% are consumers on any given platform. The 90–9–1 variant of the 1% rule indicates that 90% of people lurk, 9% edit or comment, and 1% create content on any given platform that allows content modification. This phenomenon is typically reproducible on many websites (especially YouTube video comments), but NOT the population as an aggregate. The significance being that the percentage of people moderating — on a platform such as Reddit — and the percentage of people creating actual content is less than 10%.

Who is the Mob?

Moderation often requires time to be done in an effective manner. However, most people would rather spend time doing other things. Platforms such as Reddit use unpaid, voluntary moderation in order to fulfill their moderation responsibilities. Such that the role of a voluntary moderator tends to be filled by a specific demographic. Stereotypes aside, these conditions contribute to the culture of moderation on any given platform.

“The Mob” does NOT refer to a specific group of people working together, but rather the typical personality of a moderator. This personality is common across various platforms, so a contributor is likely to encounter aspects of said personality across various platforms. This can result in the feeling that a “mob” is working against you. Of course, this is not the case. Instead, it’s a product of common policies on the internet that this article addresses.

The Problem With Self Promotion

Where do you draw the line? This is the main problem with self promotion. It’s almost impossible to tell — in an automated manner — whether someone is posting their own content for their own gain or whether someone is posting their own content to benefit a community. This results in extremes where self-promotion is banned on platforms entirely. As an example, the following text is from the self-promotion guidelines of Reddit.

But it’s not spam! I worked hard on that, I make no money from it, it’s original content! I’m not a spammer!
We’re not making a judgment on your quality, just your behavior on reddit. Your stuff’s probably amazing and someone would be really interested in it but…

Reddit Self Promotion Guidelines

So what is the result of the most extreme policy against self-promotion? The reality is that Reddit tends to bend the line for certain individuals and especially other companies. However, these policies do have an effect on user culture. You can analyze that effect from a practical standpoint or a theoretical one. In any case, the conclusion tends to be the same: Consumers prefer low-effort content.

What is Low Effort Content?

When a contributor references low effort content, that is content that takes a low amount of effort to be created. This has a number of implications. For one, low effort content is not necessarily correlated with the amount of appreciation that a consumer derives from said content. In fact, the inverse may be true as high effort content may take a high level of skill to appreciate. In other words, uncurated popular content tends to be low effort since more people can appreciate it.

An example of this phenomenon can be seen on Reddit. Don’t take my word for it. Take it from the owner of a 12 Year Old Reddit Account with over 5 million karma: What a 10-Year Old Account Learned Using Reddit.

All of these behaviors result in the same outcome: Higher-effort content — even that which can be assessed with a glance, but which requires some consideration in order to be understood — gets eclipsed by lower-effort content, thereby teaching us to expect the latter. When that expectation is challenged, people often react in surprisingly aggressive ways. The prevailing sentiment appears to be one of “This submission interrupted me… and since I didn’t immediately benefit from that interruption, it just made me angry.”

u/RamsesThePigeon

This is the same phenomenon that I discuss in “What is the Best Song or Album” regarding the topics of mainstream music.

When you visit the front page of Reddit, what do you find? 70% of the front page consists of image posts. Twitter reposts. TikTok reposts. “Low effort” memes. News headlines. That’s before you enable the NSFW posts… It gets to the point where the most basic of bots can farm karma. But God forbid someone engage in self-promotion.

If someone contributes their own content to a community, that person believes that it’s good content; notwithstanding Sturgeon’s Law.

The Solution

What is the solution to a self-promotion policy? From a contributor’s perspective, it’s breaking the rules. For whatever reason, creating a fake account to post your work is fine. The moment you use the name of your official brand though? Game over… To reiterate, posting content that you made on your own account is NOT OK. Yet someone else posting the content that you made is met with open arms.

Users are encouraged to benefit from the work of others. On the other hand, contributors are required to involve multiple people in order to have their content promoted. The irony of this behavior being that it benefits a group of people — such as a company — the most. Small creators and niche content will never be posted. So it’s no surprise that platforms such as Reddit are inundated with reposts and marketing campaigns from fake accounts.

All this work goes into banning people like this who make up the 1% of content creators. Then 99% of consumers turn around and complain about the “quality” of the platform. The same pattern occurs with monetized content: A creator is expected to make high quality content (which costs money and time to create). Then consumers complain when that work is monetized (with ads, etc). The creator is forced to stop creating high quality content since doing so without monetizing it is unsustainable.

My Experience With Self Promotion

The hate for self-promotion is universal. No one likes a braggart or a narcissist. However, any contributor understands that self-promotion is necessary at a certain level. If you are creating content that no one knows about, you have to start somewhere. The world isn’t a meritocracy where whatever you build is immediately recognized. Thus, self-promotion is prevalent among beginners.

My journey with self-promotion started the moment I attempted to make music in a serious manner. Obviously, there is a natural conflict at play here. If you are a beginner, then chances are your work is not as good as it could be. In addition, your strategy for self-promotion may NOT be restricted to a target audience (that is prone to enjoy your work). This results in the spam of low quality work across numerous platforms and contributes to the hatred of self-promotion by consumers.

Due to the above, self-promotion is not advised as consumers may associate your work with the low quality spam that is prevalent among other self promoters. However, there may be additional reasons why self promotion is not recommended. In What is the Best Song or Album, I cover the concept of a consumption state, which refers to how critical a consumer will be towards a work when it’s encountered in a natural manner; as opposed to a manner that is forced. This is especially important in music since familiarity is a huge factor in a song’s assessment of quality.

So what are the alternatives to self promoting your work? Go ahead… Tell me. Anything you think of will be a convoluted form of self-promotion or a heavy reliance on luck. Consumers love to believe that their favorite artists are the result of skill and luck that follows. Yet that’s never the case. What would these artists need a record deal for? What Do Independent Artists Need To Be Successful? Oh… Money. To do what? Promote themselves. There is no way to avoid self-promotion, only certain strategies of doing so.

To understand my frustration, you have to dig a bit deeper. If you want to remain a contributor, you have to promote your work. How?! You ask all of your friends, who proceed to tell you to create memes and TikToks because {insert artist} did it. Then you wonder why you made no progress. Then you realize that {insert artist} is signed to a label who is paying people to create TikToks in the first place. Then you understand how these TikTokers are earning so much cash on an — at the time — unmonetized platform…

So in a similar manner to posting on content aggregators, promotion becomes a game of masked inauthenticity. What can you do to drive engagement to your page without making it look like it’s you? Doesn’t matter. The record labels have you beat in many ways. 80% of advertising doesn’t work. Then, there are bots that waste your time. This entire anti self-promotion culture benefits the same companies that people are rallying against.

So you start posting anyway…

r/wallstreetbets

I used to frequently post on r/wallstreetbets. In fact, it’s how I got my first 1,000 subscribers on YouTube. Back then, you were able to post videos which allowed a music scene to be created for the subreddit. A music scene that u/Nukkil and I started. Now, that scene is dead. What happened? The moderators shut it down: Posting videos from other websites isn’t possible on that subreddit. You can upload them though.

Moassepedia Table of GME Music with Yung Quant in the first three entries.
I’m a pioneer. This is Proof.

When you open up the subreddit what do you find now that YouTube is banned? A holy grail of uploaded content that is higher quality than you’ve ever seen before? Content that — by being unmonetizable — is solely serving the r/wallstreetbets community? No. You find Twitter reposts, TikTok reposts, low effort memes, and the occasional “insightful” political discussion.

There is no point in creating high quality content for r/wallstreetbets anymore. The phenomena described earlier in the article results in your posts ranking less than low effort content. It’s also uncomfortable to leave the visibility of your own content in the hands of a Reddit moderator; who can remove your post at any time. More so that moderators are likely to do so on a whim.

Once YouTube videos were banned from r/wallstreetbets, I was done. The creators I planned to work with were done. It doesn’t matter how many upvotes you receive: An uploaded video to Reddit results in no conversion to other platforms. Therefore, the entire exercise is unsustainable for anyone who creates high quality content.

Not to mention, Reddit’s video platform doesn’t support captions. That’s a big f*ck you to the disabled.

r/venturecapital

So now we have the incident at the beginning of this article. I attempted to post a recent song about venture capital in r/venturecapital which is nearly a dead subreddit. Of course, I expected people to be happy that a song was created for their niche topic. I was wrong.

My 2c: Did you know that video is the highest-polluting form of communication there is? You know, the form of communication that generates CO2 pollution. More CO2 pollution = more climate change.
— u/Pi31415926

What is this? Climate change activism by advocating against video creation… I couldn’t believe my eyes. It would be the best troll I have ever seen, if only it wasn’t completely serious. It’s no wonder people fail to take climate change activism seriously. This person ruined it for us all!

So what can I do? Here’s a fun fact. The first time I posted a music video on r/wallstreetbets, it got removed. I found footage of the mod who removed it (without watching a single second of the video) on Twitch, then created another non-music video centered around calling him out. That mod and I would eventually reconcile: We even fought together during the second coup of r/wallstreetbets. I could go down that confrontational route or… I could just ignore it.

I mean, I’m so tired…

Not to mention, my post also got penalized by HackerNews. Dang provided an excellent explanation of what I would need to do to be able to promote that work. This made me think… Is it worth it? Tech nerds who dislike black people probably won’t care about rap anyways.

Which brings me to the entire point of this post.

The Reaction Olympics

It would be a conflict of interest for me to propose that an entire platform changes in its self-promotion rules. I’m not going to do that. However, I will provide my perspective on policies such as these from the standpoint of a small creator.

Sellout

A ban on self promotion requires me to focus on content that spurs a reaction out of people (to the point that it’s shared). Given that people flock towards negativity and drama… So I could do that while also making easy-to-consume “low-effort” content. Some people reading this right now may even be frothing at the mouth saying, “why not?” already.

Continue

I could continue to ignore the rules, because you miss every shot you don’t take. That would work if the content I currently create has value. If not, then it begs the question: Why are you creating (public) content anyways? If no one likes it, keep it to yourself, right? It’s nothing personal.

Give Up

I could adhere to the rules and make failure inevitable through unsustainability. Music isn’t a product. Merch sales are exponential. Ad revenue is not sustainable. 35 articles now and I still can’t get paid by Medium. Nothing is free in life. If something makes a person happy, why would it be free?

Ask

I could ask people to post — within relevant communities — on my behalf in order to support my content. I could ask people who enjoy the content I create to engage with it by commenting, following, subscribing, etc. I could ask people who see potential in me for funds to create content that we both want to exist. I could ask…

Make a Decision

Let’s be honest, there’s no “correct decision” here. That’s where I am right now. I have identified the cause of failure, but there is no straightforward solution.

What will I do next?

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