Every few months or so, publications such as Wired remind us about the plight of Reddit moderators, who are on the front lines of fighting spam and trolls, all for no pay. Should we feel grateful or sorry for them. I don’t.
If being a Reddit moderator is such an unenviable position, why is it whenever a top sub is seeking moderators they are inundated with applicants. Surely if being a moderators is as bad as these articles insist, they wouldn’t even be able to fill the spots, but there is huge demand in spite of no pay. Reddit moderators, especially for popular subs, have an enormous amount of power and influence, and such postilions are highly sought after. They are not the victims at all. The users are much more likely to be victims by having to adhere to arbitrary rules and censorship imposed by mods.
A common strategy, especially for popular and semi-popular subs, is to shadow-ban links, submissions, and comments even if such content do not violate the rules of said sub, if either in the past the user posted a submission or comment that possibly violated the rules or if the user has insufficient karma and or account age. Rather than the user being notified that he or she is banned or that the submission was filtered, he is left in limbo to wonder why for such a popular sub his submission or comment got zero responses or votes. This happens all the time, especially for popular subs. Such filtering is annoying and disingenuous. Why should anyone pay moderators if they cannot even be bothered to do their job of moderating, but rather outsource everything to filters. Would paying moderators change this? Doubt it, because the rules are already established, and once established, are seldom if ever undone.
Other times, subs require that users adhere to a huge seemingly arbitrary set of guidelines and flare requirements. You have to tag your posts appropriately, and every sentence and title must begin with a certain prefix. And if you mess up, the post will be filtered and you will have to wait 8 minutes before trying again.
For example, one might get a message like this when submitting content to a sub:
This is unhelpful because it does not tell you the minimum length and such information is not supplied on the sidebar either
A direct question may not require more than a couple dozen words to articulate
One must wait 8 minutes before trying again
Yeah, it does not pay, but if you use your brain there are tons of ways of getting paid under the table or indirectly that are virtually impossible to detect, such as by approving requests or approving links to sites that have affiliate links, such as a website full of Amazon links (the subtlety here, again, is that mods have the power to approve…that is where their power lies, so rather than posting the stuff themselves, they can outsource it). This is especially true for gaming-related subs, or anything consumer-related. I run a tiny cancer-related sub and occasionally get solicitations, which I ignore, but for a huge sub I’m sure they are inundated with such offers. If you cannot make money as a mod for a top sub then you’re doing it wrong.
Regarding spam and trolls, again, another problem that I think is blown out of proportion. That’s not to say it isn’t a problem, but top subs have a dozen or more mods, so it’s not like the responsibly is shouldered by a single person and there are tons of tools for automatically filtering out spam and trolls, such as by restricting submissions to only approved domains or users who have sufficiently high karma. And as discussed above, the filters are so aggressive that plenty of content that does not break the rules gets censored.
If these Reddit moderators who complain to journalists don’t like their job and or wish to be paid, they can quit and there will be no shortage of people willing to take their place, or maybe they can provide a better experience for users by not being so aggressive about auto-filtering and having adhere to arbitrary rules.