Orbiting Around Reddit’s Rating System

Online rating systems are a way to review a product or service publicly. This way, users let others know how satisfied they are while contributing to the total sum of perceived quality.

Rating interfaces should be intuitive and easy to use and offer a clear and unobtrusive option to leave feedback.

Redditing around

Reddit is “the front page of the internet,” as the company describes its platform compiled of numerous communities for sharing content and discussing it.

At first, it may seem like something hard to grasp and use, but it is actually just a bunch of content grouped together by topics. I love it because I can find anything there, either for educational and informative purposes or pure entertainment.

Reddit space

The element of discovery is also amazing, mostly because of crossposting, which means linking a post from one subreddit to another and finding new communities that way.

Often when I open the app just to scroll mindlessly, I end up learning something interesting or valuable.

Are you going up or down?

There are several ways of making an impact on Reddit, the main ones being upvotes and rewards. Everything is filtered by users, so it is democratically decided what kind of content will have higher visibility and reach.

The number displayed next to a post or comment is called the submission score, and it represents the number of upvotes minus the number of downvotes, and all posts on the platform are sorted according to it.

Reddit post with upvotes

How it actually should work a.k.a. The Rules

There are two intended uses of Reddit voting:

  • upvote if you think something contributes to the conversation,
  • downvote if you think it doesn’t contribute to the conversation or is off-topic

Specific subreddits can also have their own sets of rules. For example, r/unpopularopinion wants users to upvote actual unpopular opinions, regardless of the subjective perspective. In reality, users often tend to downvote opinions they personally disagree with.

Making an impact

So what exactly is an (up)vote?

Reddit upvote downvote illustration

Imagine a news article post stating the inventor of Vaseline used to eat a spoonful of it every day. You upvote it. What is the meaning of your upvote? Do you like the fact? Do you appreciate the poster having broadcasted the article?

If you downvote the post, are you upset about it? Are you unsatisfied with the poster for having broadcasted it? Do you want fewer people to see it?

How it actually does work a.k.a. The Humanity

Incorrect, trolling, or ignorant comments can be downvoted until they eventually get hidden.

That’s the happy path. But what about when someone doesn’t get the joke?

Poking the beehive

Unfortunately, downvoting can be used maliciously – leading to a “hive mind” where having the “wrong” opinion leads to virtual social ostracism. Users sometimes have an (almost totalitarian) view of others’ opinions, so jokes that don’t land can backfire.

The average Reddit user will often disregard the voting “rediquette” and vote according to their subjective opinion.

The uh-ohs

Reddit also uses the so-called fuzzing method: comment scores have a bit of noise integrated into their count, making it harder for individuals (usually bots) to tell if their votes counted. It skews the exact popularity score for anti-spam reasons. The general popularity score is legit, but the specific number is usually not as accurate. The more active a post is, the more out of whack that fuzzing becomes.

Reddit wants to display the content most relevant currently (e.g. breaking news), so all “old” posts (lifespan being around 24h) are pushed out.

Karma Chameleon

Reddit karma chemeleon

Karma symbolizes the total upvotes a user received by posting content. You can gain or lose it, depending on how other users feel about it. It’s a fictional score that keeps track of your credibility.

Users treasure karma because it’s a point system. Do you want to give points to someone who says cats are better than dogs and increase their “score”? I’m guessing no.

Trophy user

Awards are small, badge-like icons that users give out to posts and comments they find valuable or that made them giggle. Alongside the three official ones (Platinum, Gold, and Silver), there are community awards created by moderators.

Their primary meaning is to show materialistic appreciation since someone needs to spend real money to award you.

Reddit trophy user

All about that bling

The practice of awarding a post is called gilding – posts that receive an award will gain more traction, and it is meant to encourage people to share better content.

When you purchase coins, you keep the site running! It’s a self-sustained digital ecosystem.

It do be like that

Think of Reddit as (an even less) reliable Wikipedia – there is a lot of knowledge, it is open-sourced and community-curated, but not everything has an explanation or a lawful origin.

Reposts get to the front page repeatedly, and useful things get downvoted into oblivion because the Internet is a cruel and uncaring void. Sometimes it makes sense; other times, it doesn’t.