This right here is perhaps the most important thread in this entire discussion. Everything else boils down to "how do you remember your manners?" and the answers, as varied and creative as they are, boil down to "more or less successfully" with interludes of "but I always try harder." Here's the crux of it:
civility is a design choice as much as a cultural choice.
More than that, the two are interrelated. Structure can emphasize civility and denigrate hostility, or it can reward "entertainment." So this statement:
there can be good subreddits, but by default they aren't, because you need both a strong community and a way to create and maintain a civil community.
Has the distinct problem of presuming that it would be possible to create a civil community on a borderless site where flamboyance is rewarded and nonconformity is punished.
Haven't shown this off in years - wanna see my first "big" comment on Reddit?
That's me, talking shit to a spammer. And everyone else piling on. Got the entire domain banned - not bloody bad, eh?
Problem is, there's nothing remotely civil about any part of that discussion. Nothing. No aspect of it. But it's a funny beatdown, and it feels really good when you read it.
The problem with Reddit is everyone is "tom" to someone else.
"upvotes" and "downvotes" are every bit as civilizing as Nero's Thumb at the Colosseum. There's no compassion, there's no consideration, there's just a binary affinity gage - positive or negative. Combine that with two interesting factoids:
- 80% of the participants don't vote at all, so the gage is dominated by outliers
- You react to criticism between three and twelve times as strongly as praise.
Think about that - if you want to create a healthy community, your "upvote" should have between three and twelve times as much weight as your "downvote." Your "mad props" comments should be between three and twelve times as much weight as your "fuck you tom"s.
Have you ever seen a "mad props" comment that's even in the same zipcode as that "fuck you tom?"
I have, but it didn't come easy.
There's really only one solution: a site that only rewards positivity. It's not possible to accomplish it 100% (my beatdowns of Ramona being heavily "hubbed" or whatever are proof of that) but if you don't make a conscious effort to reward positivity and discourage negativity, you're going to end up with rage and kittens.
The steady state of Reddit is "shit to be angry about" and "completely inoffensive things." And that's why, no matter how hard individual subreddits try (and I'm a part of several that try really.fucking.hard), they will always be swimming against the tide of design.