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Learning from the mistakes of thefempire.org

Submitted by sudo in lobby (edited )

For those who don't know, thefempire.org was /r/ShitRedditSays's attempt to create an alternative website to reddit, for mostly the same reasons that raddit was created. But if you go there now, you'll see that the website is mostly deserted, save for a tightly-knit group of about a dozen users who only post every few days. What went wrong with this website, and how can raddit avoid the same fate? Having lurked on thefempire.org when it was slightly more active a couple years ago, I believe there are a few main reasons for the website's failure, which I will outline here:

Failure to promote itself

Now, when thefempire.org was first launched, it was fairly heavily publicized on the reddit fempire (the network of ShitRedditSays (SRS) subreddits). Some fempire subreddits even went as far as to announce they were moving to thefempire.org entirely, and closed the original subreddit to any new submissions. This initial advertising blitz gained the website about 20 to 30 active users, and several other users who only posted content periodically. However, after this, little to no effort was made to publicize the website to SRS users. Naturally, some of the users eventually stopped posting. This meant the initial userbase gradually decayed into what it is now.

How can raddit avoid the same fate? We should make sure that our userbase continues to grow consistently. This means not stopping after the initial publicity blitz. If we make one post on a leftist subreddit about us, then a fair number of people will become aware of our existence. But, not all of the subreddit's users visit the subreddit daily, so a large percent of the users will not see the post. Furthermore, if we don't continue to publicize ourselves, then new users to that particular leftist subreddit would never know about us. I know we all despise advertising, but that's because the products being advertised are things we don't want, which cost money we don't have, and it's being shoved in our faces. But, in this case, if it's something that people do want (a leftist alternative to reddit), and it's free, and it's not presented in an annoying manner like most ads are, I think it would be okay. If the admins here are okay with it, I think we should reach out to the moderators of the big leftist subreddits, and ask if it'd be okay to make a post telling people about raddit, and also see if they'd be willing to sticky it for a few days. If they would be willing to add us to their sidebar, that'd also be good. I also think that any users here who lurk on these subreddits a lot should be ready to pounce on anyone asking "Are there any good alternatives to reddit?" with a plug for this website. I'm sure there are tons of disgruntled anti-capitalists who are ready to jump ship from reddit, but they just haven't found a suitable ship to jump to.

Shitposting

A significant percent of the posts on thefempire.org were shitposts - extremely low effort memes, or uninteresting stream of consciousness type posts (like "god I'm tired", and that's their whole post). The sheer volume of shitposts drove me away from the site, and it probably drove away other users as well. There were even a few people who voiced their displeasure at the shitposting, to which the OPs replied something like, "Yeah, I didn't try hard for this post at all LOL". After that, shitposting, and complaining about shitposting, became an "ironic" meme for a while. In the same vein as this, pretty much all of the users never capitalized their sentences, or used proper punctuation. This got pretty annoying after a while.

How can raddit avoid this? We can make sure that shitposting doesn't become acceptable, or, god forbid, a part of the website's culture. I don't think we're at risk for this, because I honestly can't say I've seen a single shitpost on here - certainly some posts that I disagreed with, but not shitposts. Let's make sure that it stays that way.

Cliqueification

As a result of the decaying userbase, the few remaining users began to get to know one another very well, since they were the only ones left. There were always posts about the users' personal lives in addition to the normal media posts, but these personal posts became more frequent as the users became more tightly knit. There was a theory I read a while ago which said that social media websites inevitably end up focusing on either the social or the media, and as the userbase shrunk, the posts gravitated towards the social. This meant the small userbase essentially turned into a clique, such that any new user who stumbled across the website would see mostly people talking about their personal lives and receiving support from the other users, and the new user would end up not joining the website, because they would feel like they were intruding on a group of people that they don't know.

How can raddit avoid this? We can make sure that our focus is on the media side of social media. That is not to say that we should disallow our users from talking about their personal lives and creating close friendships if they want to, but that should not dominate the content on the website. This isn't an issue right now, but it could be, especially if the userbase begins to decay like thefemire.org's did. By ensuring the growth of our userbase, we can ensure that this doesn't become another thing turning people away.

Liberalism

The vast majority of the users were liberals, and the "communists" were really social democrats. This drove away the leftists. Obviously, we don't have this problem, and we probably never will. Fuck yeah, raddit admins.


So, those are the reasons why I think thefempire.org failed, and what we can do to avoid the same fate. If the admins are okay with it, I think we should create a forum specifically for promoting raddit among the leftist subreddits, to ensure that we continue to grow our userbase. I'd be willing to mod the forum. Let me know what you comrades think about this.

Comments

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10

devtesla wrote

Hi, my name is devtesla and I ran most of the subforums with casual posting that apparently drove you off the site? There was a big effort by me and the admins part to keep that stuff separate from the rest of the site. I'm sorry that it seemed to not work? I didn't know there were people so bothered by people having fun online.

Anyway, what really killed the site's growth was technical issues like the time we had to reboot the forums of scratch, the fact that logins don't always work, and the fact that our mobile site isn't very good. I have had a lot of fun there though, so this post was a trip to read lol.

6

sudo wrote

Hey devtestla, sorry that this was how you were introduced to raddit. I appreciate that you made an effort to isolate the shitposting; I was going on what I remember from the site a couple of years ago (shortly after greenduch's ragequit is when I stopped lurking). Did you try to confine it to just_post? Also, it's not that we're bothered by people "having fun online;" it's that thefempire's definition of having fun and mine are quite different. Apparently the people there enjoy low-effort shitposting, whereas I don't (and I really don't think I'm alone on this one). A constant silly circlejerk isn't appealing to someone who comes to see serious discourse. I would go to a feminist reddit clone to see a lot of serious discussion about feminist issues, and the occasional (non-shitpost) meme. To your credit, the ratio of serious articles to shitposting seems to have improved in the last couple of years, but the discussion still seems to be mostly banal.

I can understand how technical issues could hurt the website, but I don't think that's the only thing that alienated some potential users.

7

devtesla wrote

It was isolated to just post and few other subs I moderated. Like, killallgames didn't have quality standards, but games did. We only removed posts that were otherwise harmful, like racist and sexist and stuff.

They're largely recreations of subs I made on reddit, in general because I was trying to get away from the overbearing moderation on SRS subs. There's a lot of people who have interesting things to say, but feel intimidated by large lists of rules and community expectations. I feel that encouraging low effort posting (I won't call it shitposting) is a great way to get people involved who might otherwise be lost or bored. It is about inclusivity.

It's funny that you mention there being more serious articles now, as we've actually stopped moderating for quality at all.

5

Defasher wrote (edited )

The 2 sites should merge. fempire seems to have an active (reactive) userbase, but no contributions for them to engage with, while this site has lots of contributors but little engagement.

5

devtesla wrote

There's more posts than you might think, sort r all by new.

I don't think we're gonna merge the sites if y'all don't like low effort posts tho.

3

veganarchist wrote

How did you scale down reddit's source code? Is it a bandwidth hog?

7

devtesla wrote

I'm not the guy to ask. To be honest I don't think there was a scaling down at all, which is probably the root of our technical problems. No one involved really had any business running a site as complex as this.

7

ziq wrote

When we were making raddit, we looked into using reddit's source code and it was a huge dead end. That code is bloated as fuck.

8

ziq wrote

Excellent points.

We're currently being promoted by r/ShitLiberalsSay (with a sticky) and r/LateStageCapitalism (in the sidebar). A big get would be r/socialism if anyone is friends with a mod there that could get us a sticky.

But I think we need to advertise off of reddit to grow - I think most of rad-reddit is already familiar with us, but are either uninterested in using a small, non-corporate site cut off from the greater (liberal) population, or lurk here without posting because there are so few conversations to join.

But I don't personally use any social media platforms outside reddit, so I'm not sure how to approach that. Maybe facebook groups? Or could we get a popular podcaster or youtuber to talk about us? ChapoTrapHouse seems very popular.

5

sudo wrote

Neat, I don't usually lurk on those subs, so I didn't see those ones. Those ought to be helpful. I don't personally know the /r/soc mods, so I can't help you there.

For facebook, the only thing I can think of would be reaching out to some of the socialist meme pages there, and seeing if they'd plug us. Maybe also see if a popular leftist twitter user would plug us, but I don't use twitter either, so I don't know.

3

BlackFlagged wrote (edited )

Maybe we should make socialist memes that mention raddit and send them to those meme groups?

4

theemacsshibe wrote

Well, I once did a video on Reddit which could do with a followup. I fear there's a bad correlation with centrist/rightist ideology and popularity though.

3

KarlMarx wrote (edited )

Yeah! We need meme videos like this that promote raddit.

8

Tequila_Wolf wrote

Some other concerns:

Lack of ability to cross-post and to search for older posts definitely effect my sense of the usability of the place. I imagine more karma stuff would help more people be interested.

6

KarlMarx wrote (edited )

5

sudo wrote

Oof, the salt. That's about the response I would've expected.

5

oakreef wrote (edited )

I'm mostly just amused at what you consider the "mistakes". I like the fact that's is a dumping ground for a small group of friends I have online to share shit. It may not be what the site was originally envisioned to be but it's what it is now and why I'm there. I also follow many of the members on Tumblr or Twitter or chat with them basically daily on IRC. It's not some ~community driven content aggregation~ site to me it's a place where I hang with friends. If it became a big reddit competitor or whatever this place is meant to be there's a good chance I'd want to leave.

Seeing this post was like someone observing a small town theatre group and loudly declare "Here is my list of reasons why these people utterly fail to compete with the output of Warner Bros Studios!" It's absurd on the face of it, hence why I reacted with mockery.

Also the bit about liberals seemed like such a non sequitur.

5

sudo wrote

I like the fact that's is a dumping ground for a small group of friends I have online to share shit. It may not be what the site was originally envisioned to be but it's what it is now and why I'm there.

That's my point exactly. To the best of my knowledge, the site was originally supposed to be just like the reddit fempire, but not hosted on reddit. I'm not saying thefempire.org needs to change; I'm saying I don't want raddit to turn into a dumping ground for a tiny group of people.

Seeing this post was like someone observing a small town theatre group and loudly declare "Here is my list of reasons why these people utterly fail to compete with the output of Warner Bros Studios!" It's absurd on the face of it, hence why I reacted with mockery.

You'd be justified in doing so, if that's what I was saying. What I'm saying is that it didn't live up to what it was originally envisioned to be, which was (IIRC) a carbon copy of the fempire, so I was suggesting methods for raddit to live up to its goal, which is to be a carbon copy of the leftist subreddits.

Also the bit about liberals seemed like such a non sequitur.

I only included that because the site is focused on feminism, but a non-negligible portion of feminists are also communists, who would like to talk about feminism and communism. But they can't do that if the rest of the users are liberals. I'm well aware that thefempire.org wasn't intended to be a communist site.

5

oakreef wrote

This makes a lot of sense! I guess I failed to see your perspective in what you were trying to accomplish in this thread.

4

StudentRadical wrote

That's my point exactly. To the best of my knowledge, the site was originally supposed to be just like the reddit fempire, but not hosted on reddit. I'm not saying thefempire.org needs to change; I'm saying I don't want raddit to turn into a dumping ground for a tiny group of people.

This is a bit mistaken. The copying part people were interested in was the general format and user interface of Reddit, like threaded comment sections, front page, various sorts, no avatars subscriptions and so on. It was a common feeling that the platform was neat but the Masters were awful. But becoming an alternative to Reddit or even few thousand users was never a serious goal and in fact at one point we had a PhpBB board. TF.org is not like the Feminist Voat in anysense.

Having a place to hang out without Redditry was the most important goal all along, which I suspect also contributed to seeming unpoliticality of the site as it now exists. Many users who wanted a new place were themselves grown weary or frustrated with /r/shitredditsays and /r/srsdiscussion and doxxxes and leaks had had an effect on morale, making us lose contact with many members of the community and contributed to the feeling of walking on eggshells.

The activism portion we had going on back then was trying to get the Reddit side administration to behave, like at all, by contacting media organizations about /r/jailbait, white supremacist subreddits and so on.

I only included that because the site is focused on feminism, but a non-negligible portion of feminists are also communists, who would like to talk about feminism and communism. But they can't do that if the rest of the users are liberals. I'm well aware that thefempire.org wasn't intended to be a communist site.

TBH I don't see what the issue is here. If feminists do one thing, it's debating amongst themselves. The bigger issue is the size of the userbase and its focus rather than it being too liberal. Truth to be told, I prefer arguing in places where there isn't that much of an consensus, but that's just me. Some of the places least amenable for discussion like /r/samharris, /r/jordanpeterson and /r/atheism encourage habits that stifle critical discussion. But it similarities also let pursue projects deeper.

3

trimma wrote

Yeah, I'm kinda salty about having strangers watching us and acting like their actions online are not accountable. Who wouldn't feel weird about a stranger who won't tell you how they know you admitting to having spent the last few years stalking your online activity?

5

StudentRadical wrote

For those who don't know, thefempire.org was /r/ShitRedditSays's attempt to create an alternative website to reddit, for mostly the same reasons that raddit was created.

Hardly. The situation of Reddit and politics at wide have evolved quite a bit, and the goal of the off-site project was always more on the social side, not to serve some positive political or normative goal. In the end the site came to being as we stopped planning and started doing. Outside of SRSDiscussion and SRSPrime, what SRS did was mostly provide alternative communities that moderated bigotry and trolling, in a way that mostly didn't take into account political views. In otherwords, it was being run more like a safespace rather than an actual activist space.

What went wrong with this website

few main reasons for the website's failure

There are two senses in which tf.org could be a failure. First, it was somehow ethically wrong or secondly it failed to live up to its goal. The former, which your complaint about 'liberalism' hints at, is yet to be demonstrated. The latter is false, though it would be nice if our ranks were doubled or tripled, but it's not like I care much.

I don't the rest of points are worth engaging with - yes the site is to a large degree about people having fun, we know each other pretty well (though does that really make a clique? I'd like to think we're a friendly bunch).

4

sancocho wrote

From another point of view, one of the reasons I don't come here often is that the whole site is exactly like my Reddit front page. I would appreciate more activity in more casual/less political subs. After a long day working, is nice to zone out a bit.

3

tlckl wrote

I didn't even know it was a thing...