A Peek At Reddit's Hidden Network

A beautiful, super-meta look at how Reddit polices and feeds itself.

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This, in case you were wondering, is what Reddit's power structure really looks like.

Curious to know more about Reddit's amorphous community, Redditor Sharkbait784 gathered post data going back to 2008 to identify and suss out connections (links) between subreddits. The result is this map, which looks a little like a diagram of connected neurons.

The major nodes in the map are the large but little-known self-referential corners of Reddit: subreddits like /r/TrueRedditDrama, which chronicles major conflicts across subreddits, and /r/DepthHub, a collection of some of the more thought provoking threads on the site. Some of the purely meta subreddits are based on rudimentary bot programs — /r/ModerationLog keeps track of non-spam post removals as part of an effort to create a sort of public record of site moderation. Others, like /r/reportthespammers, are user-run venues meant to police and clean up the site, while /r/Serendipity is a curated subreddit that aims to "broaden the perspective of its subscribers" by pulling in popular entries from other subreddits.

Though some of the more 'meta' subreddits cater to a niche audiences, others are quite large, with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, suggesting that, on Reddit, content about Reddit can be extremely popular.

We can also see that a good deal of Reddit's output is not just a hodgepodge of errant links posted by occasional users, but the work of an obsessive and self-contained community that feeds off itself (in this sense, it's a lot like Wikipedia). The map further confirms what many have also derived from the sites's traffic figures — that Reddit attracts a diverse body of casual users, but is largely powered by its devoted and obsessive core (Reddit had 37 billion pageviews in 2012 off of 400 million unique visitors).

For some of the larger, more diverse subreddits like /r/videos, the map can be hard to follow. For others, though it nicely illustrates the predictable isolation of controversial subreddits like /r/NSFW as well as the strength of the network of subreddits like /r/Minecraft.

If nothing else, the visualization is a unique look at network that's often hard grasp, and even harder to visualize.

Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.

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