Will Reddit Have Its ‘Digg Moment’ After Firing Popular IAMA Employee Victoria Taylor?

Reddit is in full crisis mode after the firing of popular employee Victoria Taylor — who was responsible for some of the site’s most popular Ask Me Anything (IAMA) posts — sent moderators across the site into a revolt.

Taylor was the force behind some of the most popular IAMAs of all time, including President Barack Obama. She coordinated the times and made sure to verify that the celebrities who appeared were actually answering the questions and not pawning off the duties onto a PR person.

The IAMA board went private after her firing, and dozens of other large subreddits have followed suit, creating a full-scale revolt by the volunteer moderators against the site’s administrators. The incident is the latest bit of drama to strike Reddit, but this the most serious blow yet and could lead to what many are calling a “Digg moment.”

Digg was a popular link and image-sharing site that at one time was even bigger and more popular than Reddit, but in 2010 introduced a wildly unpopular new website upgrade. The new site took power away from regular users to submit content and instead promoted content and blogs that drew traffic from Digg.

As a result, Digg users left the site in droves and came to Reddit. The exodus was so absolute that by September 2010, Reddit has surpassed Digg in popularity, and it’s only continued to grow from there. Today Reddit is among the top 15 websites in the United States.

But the firing of Victoria Taylor could have history repeating itself. Friday’s moderator revolt has shut down some of the most popular subreddits that collectively have tens of millions of subscribers.

Tension has been brewing among Reddit’s user base for weeks. In June, the site announced it would be eliminating a number of subreddits that broke the site’s rules on harassment, chief among them was the controversial FatPeopleHate. The subreddit’s subscribers — along with a small but vocal group of allies — voiced their protest by taking over the front page, filling it with posts demanding the firing of Reddit CEO Ellen Pao and posting crude drawings of her face posted on Hitler’s body.

But the current drama enveloping the site is far from a temper tantrum from angry users. The site runs largely because of the volunteer work of its moderators, and the firing of Victoria Taylor appeared to be the breaking point among a group already fed up with the lack of cooperation and communication from administrators.

Taylor’s abrupt firing on Friday (and even Victoria herself hinted that she had no idea why she was fired) led to a number of planned IAMA sessions falling through. One of the moderators of IAMA, /u/karmanaut, explained that the team running the subreddit didn’t even know she had been fired until the IAMA sessions she was supposed to coordinate didn’t happen.

“We had a number of AMAs scheduled for today that Victoria was supposed to help with, and they are all left absolutely high and dry. She was still willing to help them today (before the sub was shut down, of course) even without being paid or required to do so. Just a sign of how much she is committed to what she does.”

It remains to be seen how much this controversy will affect Reddit, but the longer the popular subreddits stay down, the more users may be driven away. And when the anger reaches a tipping point, Reddit could be headed full-charge into its own Digg moment.

[Image via Reddit]

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