The moderators of Reddit’s IAmA community will no longer solicit and coordinate ask me anything (AMA) conversations with celebrities and high-profile individuals, they wrote in a post on Saturday.
Reddit’s AMAs featuring notable people have become an iconic aspect of the platform, giving regular users the chance to ask questions of people they may otherwise never have a chance to speak with. (Bill Gates has done 11 of them.) The AMAs are usually a fascinating mix of interesting perspective and personal anecdotes, even if the person being featured is usually doing some sort of self-promotion. And sometimes, the entertainment is reading how the AMAs go south.
r/IAmA has more than 22 million subscribers, so the subreddit offers a potentially big audience for anyone thinking about promoting what they’re working on or just looking to chat with the Reddit hivemind. But now that the community’s moderators will no longer be actively working with notable people and their teams, it will be that much more difficult to trust that the person doing an AMA is the real deal.
The moderators, who are unpaid volunteers, will stop doing the following activities “effective immediately,” according to the post:
Active solicitation of celebrities or high profile figures to do AMAs.
Email and modmail coordination with celebrities and high profile figures and their PR teams to facilitate, educate, and operate AMAs. (We will still be available to answer questions about posting, though response time may vary).
Running and maintaining a website for scheduling of AMAs with pre-verification and proof, as well as social media promotion.
Maintaining a current up-to-date sidebar calendar of scheduled AMAs, with schedule reminders for users.
Sister subreddits with categorized cross-posts for easy following.
Moderator confidential verification for AMAs.
Running various bots, including automatic flairing of live posts
“Moving forward, we’ll be allowing most AMA topics, leaving proof and requests for verification up to the community, and limiting ourselves to removing rule-breaking material alone,” the moderators added. “This doesn’t mean we’re allowing fake AMAs explicitly, but it does mean you’ll need to pay more attention.”
In a DM with The Verge, the community’s lead moderator said that the key change will be that the team is retiring its IT infrastructure and bots that they’ve built — including an entire website for things like scheduling AMAs and submitting verification info that is now offline. (That appears to be true; a link to a step-by-step guide to doing an AMA doesn’t load for me, and neither does a different link on the same domain that I received from an auto-reply when I tried to email the moderators.) The team took the website down “primarily because none of the people on our team with the technical qualifications to run it had any interest in doing so anymore,” according to the mod.
The mod says they let Reddit know this was a “likely outcome” all the way back on June 1st — a day after Apollo for Reddit developer said he could be on the hook for $20 million per year under the new API pricing — but apparently did not get a response to that message.
As for why they’re stepping back, in their Saturday post, the moderators quoted a 2015 New York Times op-ed two of them wrote after they shut down the community following Reddit’s firing of Victoria Taylor. Taylor was well-known for helping with many celebrity AMAs, but was suddenly fired in July of that year, and IAmA joined other subreddits in briefly shutting down in protest.
“Our primary concern, and reason for taking the site down temporarily, is that Reddit’s management made critical changes to a very popular website without any apparent care for how those changes might affect their biggest resource: the community and the moderators that help tend the subreddits that constitute the site,” Brian Lynch and Courtnie Swearingen wrote in the op-ed. “Moderators commit their time to the site to foster engaging communities. Ms. Taylor’s sudden termination is just the most recent example of management’s making changes without thinking through what those changes might mean for the people who use the site on a daily basis.” Many moderators have made similar comments during the latest protests.
“Will this undermine most of what makes IAmA special? Probably”
In their post, the r/IAmA mods noted that they haven’t participated in the recent protests, which were focused on Reddit’s new paid API pricing pushing out some third-party apps and on the company’s treatment of moderators who kept their communities private. “This does not imply that we think things are being managed better now,” they wrote. “Rather, it reflects our belief that such actions will not make any significant difference this time.”
They’re aware that their change in approach will likely make the community worse — but that’s kind of their point. “Will this undermine most of what makes IAmA special? Probably,” the moderators wrote. “But Reddit leadership has all the funds they need to hire people to perform those extra tasks we formerly undertook as volunteer moderators, and we’d be happy to collaborate with them if they choose to do so.”
Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt declined to comment.
Update July 1st, 10:35PM ET: Added context from r/IAmA’s lead moderator.