HACK / MAKE

A Reddit Quick Start Guide for Geeks Who Aren’t Into Memes and Listicals

Just by calling itself “the front page of the internet,” Reddit scares away people who have come to learn through years of their own honest investment that the internet can be a vapid place. The intelligent geeks that we (think we) are see reddit links thrown around for this meme and that listical and figure said front page is more US Weekly than The Economist. Turns out, reddit is an interesting place once you look beyond /r/gifs and /r/aww.

Getting Started

  1. Create an account: You want it to be your internet front page. Reddit doesn’t seem to do sleazy “social” things like Facebook so you shouldn’t be too worried about creating an account.

  2. Unsubscribe from pretty much every default subreddit: Subreddits are topic based areas of posts and conversation. Go to /subreddits and hit that red “unsubscribe” button for pretty much everything. The defaults tend to be the popular meme-type subreddits which is what we want to avoid. I left a couple like /r/worldnews and /r/EarthPorn which seemed interesting and possibly not too much of a time suck.

  3. Use the search box on /subreddits to subscribe to a few of your interest: This is where Reddit shines. Like Twitter and ADN, by subscribing only to the subreddits you want to see, Reddit becomes what you like and nothing else. One of my favorites is /r/nyc. It gives me a way to see and read about what’s going on in the city in a way I can’t on Twitter. Hashtags are a poor way to follow topics—just try to get something useful out of #NYC.

    A couple that may pique your interest:

    Or maybe even:

  4. Use it for a few weeks: Don’t start by subscribing to a whole bunch of subreddits to a point where you feel overwhelmed as you start using it. Just find one or two. For several weeks, I just went straight to /r/nyc before I figured out the whole frontpage thing. You’ll start to get a sense of which topics work well in the reddit format and then will start to get curious.

    When you’re signed in, the frontpage will be a selection of posts from your subscribed subreddits. You’ll see the list of your subreddits at the top.

    Clicking on the blue title of post will sometimes take you to another site to show you the linked article or sometimes take you directly to the thread if it’s not a link post. This behavior is similar to Daring Fireball type link list posts. You’ll either see the domain beside the title or self.subredditName.

    Clicking on Comments under the title takes you to the thread to show the conversation ranked “by best” by default. Upvotes and magic determines what’s best. You’ll start to see different subreddits communities have different personalities but most will bury “First!” comments and other junk.

    Up or downvote articles to your taste. I don’t think it does anything to help some algorithm “tailor your experience” but helps shape the conversation.

  5. Stay curious: Once you start to become familiar with a few subreddits, start exploring a few more. Some may be similar, like how /r/travel led me to /r/solotravel, or maybe remind you that you’ve always wanted to learn piano and you find yourself following /r/piano/.

    There’s a lot of interesting things on the internet disguised beyond what gets most people’s attention. Stay curious and know where to look.

Disclaimer

This isn’t the disclaimer you were expecting. Somewhere along the way, “productivity” started encouraging us to turn away from things that didn’t directly create an output. People on the internet started discouraging us from “consuming” and we’ve started to feel empowered when finding a comfortable corner of the internet that wants to read and listen and use what we create. But when you throw away the superficial layer of time and attention and look at what something like Reddit or what the knowledge base of the internet as a whole is and can be, you may see a glimpse in to a place that takes you out of your productive place and makes you uncomfortable. You may see ideas and cultures you haven’t thought about before. You may become dangerously entangled in what the world has to offer. You might get lost in history or poetry. You risk becoming less productive but might just open yourself up to interesting new things about the world around you.

Thoughts or comments? Let's talk on Twitter or send me an email.