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Reddit Cofounder Says Site Was Built By a Horde of Fake Accounts 192

derekmead writes "How, exactly, did Reddit get so big? Well, according to Reddit cofounder Steve Huffman, in the early days the Reddit crew just faked it 'til they made it.' In a video for Udacity, Huffman describes how the first Redditors populated the site's content with tons of fake accounts. These days, with the site's users are wary of people using expendable accounts to try to seed their own content. But early on, Huffman said that using fake accounts driven by the founders was key to building the tone they wanted to the site. Early on the Reddit crew could shape the discourse of the site in the direction they wanted, and as the real user base grew, those standards held allowing the fake accounts to fade away."

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Reddit Cofounder Says Site Was Built By a Horde of Fake Accounts

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @06:41PM (#40405031)

    You don't say

  • by cephalien ( 529516 ) <> on Thursday June 21, 2012 @06:42PM (#40405043)

    Been to r/circlejerk, lately? :)

    Either way, who cares. If it hadn't taken off, they'd just end up as a bunch of weirdos talking to their multiple personalities. But it did, and the same tactic is used all the time - ever see a single dollar bill in a tip jar? Priming isn't new.

    • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @06:58PM (#40405199)

      ever see a single dollar bill in a tip jar? Priming isn't new.

      Well, I have.. I took all the other bills out when the cashier had his back turned. :D Everything I learned, I learned from Batman movies.

    • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:00PM (#40405213) Homepage

      ever see a single dollar bill in a tip jar? Priming isn't new.

      Yep. At least according to local legend, when the built the first Costco they had the employees park close in and move their cars several times a day - to create the illusion of a busy parking lot.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Not too much different than a restaurant with windows on a busy sidewalk seating people in tables near the windows if business is slow, to make the restaurant at first glance look active...

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Not too much different... if the people sitting by the windows are made of cardboard. Reddit was created with totally fake accounts. And by the looks of it, still populated with fakes.

      • to create the illusion of a busy parking lot.

        To anyone watching the parking lot for an extended amount of time to before deciding whether or not to shop there?

        I'm not sure that necessarily proves the principle is sound, it just proves that some people believe in the principle.

        • to create the illusion of a busy parking lot.

          To anyone watching the parking lot for an extended amount of time to before deciding whether or not to shop there? I'm not sure that necessarily proves the principle is sound, it just proves that some people believe in the principle.

          The first Costco was alongside a medium busy road, so lots of chances for people to see the lot day after day. But it was also in a somewhat dodgy somewhat rundown semi industrial area, so convincing those people that they were open

      • by dj245 ( 732906 )
        I've seen this a lot with year-round firework stores. Firework stores (aside from the 3 weeks before the 4th of July, and the 2 weeks before Christmas) are generally not busy places. The employees part right in front to make it seem that other people are there. Many people don't like to go into a store with nobody else inside.
    • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @09:08PM (#40406417)

      > Been to r/circlejerk, lately? :)

      You mean there is a difference from reddit? ;-) /me ducks

    • That reminds me, my grandmother used to have a saying "It is bad luck to buy a coin bank without anything in it". In hindsight, I think she just liked tricking people into thinking they suckered her out of potential money. Usually it was just a few pennies or old washers she picked up.

      • by splatter ( 39844 )

        That is actually not uncommon from the previous generation. My wife was told the same by her grandmother, and to this day always makes sure there is a penny or some change in a gift wallet, handbag, purse, or piggy bank.

    • Been to r/circlejerk, lately? :)

      Man, k5 already made me hate the word "meta" with a passion. Or rather more. You just flat out call it what it is like that, I'm not dumb enough to look.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Am I real?

  • I knew it (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @06:43PM (#40405059)

    Everyone on Facebook and LinkedIn is fake too.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    the biggest collection of self-important douchebags on the internet was started using self-important douchebaggery?

    never saw that coming.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:01PM (#40405219) Homepage
    You can buy a turnkey matchmaking site, complete with a few thousand profiles to get things going. These profiles will even send messages to your "real" users. You can toggle a switch to choose if your users have to pay to see the message, pay to reply, or whatever. There's nothing wrong with what reddit did, even if it went against their own terms of service. What's the phrase..."by any means necessary".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:02PM (#40405233)

    A Nasdaq cofounder admitted today that their site was built by a horde of fake accountants.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:04PM (#40405249) Journal

    There are real people behind those posts now?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:06PM (#40405261)

    The Reddit groupthink is pretty overpowering. I wouldn't be surprised if there are still a horde of fake accounts designed to upvote politically favored things and downvote badthink articles right into the memory hole.

  • Not really new news (Score:3, Informative)

    by AEton ( 654737 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:08PM (#40405277)

    I thought this was interesting when I read it in a post from 2010 [].

    • you went through the trouble of finding that post (which has zero replies and therefore doesn't indicate any discussion having taken place btw)... just so you can show off how little this interests you? hahahaha.... yeah, hackernews. *pats head*

      • by nazsco ( 695026 )

        No, he didn't search because there's no search at hn. Pg wants it to be like 4Chan.

        He tried to submit it there for karma whoring and got denied because it was already posted, hence he tried to karma whore here

  • With this new web 3.3 society it seems people get intensely focused on one site only to migrate to a newer site. Remember Digg? Remember Slashdot? Reddit will get replaced, it's only a matter of time. For me I'm going back to usenet and gopher.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:20PM (#40405375)

      I preferred Web 3.11 for Workgroups instead.

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:25PM (#40405419) Journal

      With this new web 3.3 society

      You must have some kind of pre-release. I'm still on web 2.0.4-RC2. I think the 3.x series has more we- scale techonlogies like nosql and cloud. That will allow us to leverage javascript on every teir to make a thicker thin client with rich apps using HTML6 technology with XML for unstructured social tags. This is perfect for enterprise.

      I'm looking forward to the upgrade.

    • by horza ( 87255 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:59PM (#40405771) Homepage

      Digg was destroyed by its owner. Slashdot and Reddit survive by... well doing nothing. How long did Slashdot go with it's appalling mess of code? And the moment they tried to clean things up including the interface... nothing but complaints! Sometimes if it ain't broke don't fix it (except secretly behind the scenes). Hell, I live in France where fax is still more respected than email.

      The only reason Slashdot is dying is dilution. Nobody wants to watch TV, we don't have time, and the previous poor quality of submissions and editing was border-line acceptable as it served as a trigger-point for a lively comments thread but the pollution of slashvertisement by timothy etc makes reading bitching threads tiresome.

      Getting momentum is tough. I don't think Slashdot or Reddit are going anywhere for now. However as the spectacular demise of Digg shows, things can change pretty quickly.


      • Digg tried to kill themselves four times. They just got better at it as they went along. Part of their charm was their noobishness. They were known for it. Periodically re-engineering the discussion system to make it worse, presumably to make their noob members feel at home. It was weird and low rent and they finally put themselves out of their misery.

      • by mangu ( 126918 )

        Well, FWIW Slashdot has done a lot of effort to kill themselves by trying so much to eliminate the trolls.

        When I first came here I had seen several discussion forums before, but what caught my attention was how, from time to time, a really funny troll appeared from nowhere.

        Slashdot without trolls is rather bland and uninteresting.

    • What's a Digg? And I do care about my lawn. And I am a bit drunk. It shows. I'll just turn off the computer now an snuggle up with my MIRF.

  • by LulzAndOrder ( 2667597 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:16PM (#40405349)
    Still today, if you pay attention, you can tell that the tone of the site is maintained by editorial up/down voting. I know, because my tone they hate and it consistently gets one downvote. Not a lot, just the two needed to make it negative. Then if people reply to me, that discussion is not manipulated, but that comment that started my thread sticks with the negative one. It happens over and over. Regular folks can swoop in and pour more ups or downs, but more often than not, there is a "first psas" (ha ha First!) that zooms through right away and keeps the 'jerk tone pristine. Used to be that way on Slashdot too, you can tell by how quickly the needle moves to where it "wants" to be. I don't know any more, I don't pay attention or post.
    • hah, that's nothing. try hackernews.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:22PM (#40405387)

      Maybe you're just an asshole and, indeed, nobody cares about what you have to say.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Augh, I'm out of mod points, so everybody look at this reply and mentally add +1 Insightful. Everybody should shut the fuck up about 10 times a day and ponder quietly to themselves "Maybe I'm just an asshole?" Do not continue posting on the Internet until you can demonstrate to yourself (to at least 2 sig figs) that you are not.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Please take your own advice.

      • The +4 Interesting mod on GP says otherwise.

        It's one thing to downmod comments because they're not constructive towards the discussion. It's altogether another thing to downmod individuals completely (though it happens all the time, in the form of credibility in real life, and karma on /.).

        Still, I expect even trolls have interesting things to say once in a while.

      • by craznar ( 710808 )

        When you have +2000 over a week, then -4000 in one day, it is hard to imagine it has anything to do with what I'm saying.

        I am just not that important.

    • by ffflala ( 793437 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @07:28PM (#40405447)

      I know, because my tone they hate and it consistently gets one downvote. Not a lot, just the two needed to make it negative . . . . more often than not, there is a "first psas" (ha ha First!) that zooms through right away and keeps the 'jerk tone pristine.

      I'm curious: how would you characterize your "tone"? Maybe I'm reading you wrong, but it sounds like you're describing your own tone as that of a jerk.

      If that's the case, it just sounds like effective & efficient modding.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        you did read it wrong :) but plenty of people do think i'm a jerk, and plenty of people don't.

        I wrote 'jerk with an apostrophe as a shortening of circlejerk, meaning the site likes its own circlejerk tone, and tries to maintain it.

        They downvote me because of the following: I read sites like these for learning and for humor. Most of the time, i just lurk, or really, just read along enjoying the jokes, learning here or there, and ignoring the noise. If I agree with what's being said, why comment, right? H

        • by ffflala ( 793437 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @09:07PM (#40406403)
          Well I can think of a few simpler explanations for your experience than your claim, but I believe that you'd just find them insulting and it would shut down this exchange. So in the hope of being constructive, I will suggest an slight tweak to your approach. Try this for a week or so, and if you still run into the immediate -1 mods. If you do? Well there goes my theory, maybe you're onto something. But if you find that the downvotes disappear (as I suspect they will), well I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

          (W)hen somebody says something that is both wrong/uneducated, and I can tell it's emotional, bigoted, and antithetical and intolerant of things I believe in, then I get motivated to set the record straight in a way that "does not suffer fools"

          It's this shit right here that sounds to me like prime downvote bait. Here's the suggestion: next time you see something both wrong/uneducated, something that is emotional, bigoted, antithetical, and intolerant of the things you believe in, try a minor variation on your approach to setting the record straight. No need to "suffer fools" as you put it, but just stick to disputing the something they posted. Do not --no matter how strongly a negative reaction it provokes in you-- belittle, embarrass, or try insult the *person*, even by implication (such as "only idiots would think that.") Whatever you own conclusions about the person might be, don't post them. Just disagree --as vehemently as you prefer-- and explain why you disagree.

          Attack the argument, not the person -- even if they're attacking others and/or you. It can be a subtle distinction, but this is the difference between civilized-but-lively debate and ego-wanking.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          A lot of dumb people think they're pretty smart. The number of individuals in the group does not have to be large for at least one to be smarter than you (you could generalize from the birthday paradox).

          It is not a measure of intelligence to 'put fools in their place'. It is wrestling with a pig. When you can, stick to facts. When you don't have facts, stick to logic. When the person you're arguing with has a fundamentally different view of truth as you (e.g. skepticism vs religion), appeal to emotion. Conn

        • but plenty of people do think i'm a jerk, and plenty of people don't.

          Mystery solved, then. The people who think you're a jerk are going to down vote you every time. The people who don't think you're a jerk may not vote at all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And if you mention the ongoing project of genocide directed at white people, you can expect a million downvotes from white anti-white cultural marxists.

      EU should 'undermine national homogeneity' says UN migration chief []

      “You’re (white people) on the endangered list. And unlike, say, the bald eagle or some exotic species of muskrat, you are not worth saving. In forty years or so, maybe fewer, there won’t be any more white people around.” – Tim Wise, “anti-racist activist

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Setting the desired tone? Gates bad. Torvalds good. Portman hot. Jobs cool.

  • (Score:1, Funny)

    by p51d007 ( 656414 )
    So, reddit is admitting they are as fake as LOL, dropped both sites a few years back.
  • Wouldn't what they did constitute fraud and manipulation and put them in an actionable position from their advertisers and/or actual human users, if not criminal in some locales? It's wholly unethical at best and I have been asked to create fake accounts and posts by some of my web clients and have told them so. That's just so wrong on so many levels.
    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      if the fake accounts were loading ads, yes, otherwise no way
      • if the fake accounts were loading ads, yes, otherwise no way

        I'm sorry, but I'm not gonna buy that from anyone who isn't a lawyer, and that might be true where you live but might not in every locale. If you pretend to be something else for monetary gain with the express purpose of manipulation, that's fraud. Not acting, fraud. Something tells me this admission by the co-founder may come back to bite him and Reddit. I know I will never go there after this. BTW, how do you separate fake account posts and non-fake posts from ads when they appear on the same page? I've b

        • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
          who was defrauded? advertisers paid a certain amount per ad impression, or per ad click, and got the amount they paid for.

          luring people under false pretenses to a website is not fraud otherwise goatse would be in prison
  • by mea_culpa ( 145339 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @09:15PM (#40406481)

    A computer operating system requires a bootstrapper to load it into memory before it can run.
    An engine on an automobile or aircraft requires rotation by an external source before it can power itself.
    A business requires capital before it can generate its own.
    A social media site requires 'social media' before it can launch.

  • by jmerlin ( 1010641 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @10:10PM (#40406841)
    I loathe the idea of ever living in New York City but would love to live in a ghost town. You know what they say about assumptions, man!
  • The general population of redditors and their self-masturbatory attention whoring has become annoying enough that I don't bother any more. I used to waste hours a day there, but the signal/noise ratio has turned decidedly flamboyant hipster. The resulting Imgur postings each day, however, are still worth watching, so I just subscribe to those feeds. Funny/Sexy/Nerdy content without the self-pleasuring drivel. Much better way to 'reddit'.

  • They can remove the fake accounts!
  • In the course of developing a large, scalable, social networking application, one aspect of this is 'Stress Testing', in which, common sense dictates that you need to set-up a staging environment with fake users, and scripts (aka: bots) that act as users interacting with the system.

    The fact that they used this practice in production to get attention or mislead and entice real people to use their system, is not that surprising, or un-common. The real news here is that the majority of reddit users are, and ha

  • 'Social' sites have been seeding themselves since the beginning. Nobody really wants to join a ghost-town, and no site-owner really wants a free-for-all.

    This is less a 'revelation' and more just an acknowledgement of what everyone savvy knew was going on anyway.

  • by Bonobo_Unknown ( 925651 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @02:04AM (#40408257)
    In other words, the Golden Era of Reddit where there was supposedly more intelectual discussions, content and the lack to rage comics and cat pictures was all fake? Now that Reddit has actual users it's just a shit as 4chan?
    • No. In the first few weeks, when the fake account operated, Reddit didn't even have comments (as you could have learned from watching the video).
    • by Pope ( 17780 )

      I guess all those /jailbait pictures were fakes.

  • Ever notice some of the common passwords revealed in the password hacks are kind of not that common. Why would 40 accounts have the password Michael and another 40 accounts have the password Jordon? Fake accounts with common passwords duh.
  • That would make the circle complete.
  • ... because somewhere along the line someone gave them money based on their success, which appears to have been faked for some period of time.

    Fire up your lawsuits and get the popcorn ready.

  • Back in my college radio days, we learned that the best way to get a call-in show rolling was to prime the pump with a number of calls made by station staff themselves.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.