The Reddit Experiment

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I recently had a friend’s post reach the #2 spot on Reddit’s front page. It was, (perhaps predictably) an “aww” picture of him holding his dog with a derpy expression on his (the dog’s that is) face, with the title “Some people think [the dog] is weird but I think he’s cute..” or something like that.  I, of course, was both impressed and jealous- as a “no time poster, long time lurker” I have never felt the glow of self-affirmation that a front-page post brings. Perhaps so as a way to minimize missing out on this feat, I have always contended that it is not that hard to reach the front page if one is willing to “sell-out” and pander to Reddit’s basest instincts. No more conjecture. I am going to try to attempt it, and will report back the results for your reading pleasure.

This idea comes from my own frustration with things getting upvoted on Reddit which have no inherent value/insight/comedic quality, but which strike some level of salaciousness / self-congratulation / human interest which makes people want to up vote them. See the examples below if you do not yet know what I mean.

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER- some of the posts may appear insensitive or that I am making light of certain challenging life situations or great achievements. I hope it is clear that this is all pure satire and not meant to be taken seriously. This is more a commentary on the Reddit community as a whole.

The Experiment:

To make this a fair experiment, I am going to list beforehand on this blog the content which I plan to submit to Reddit, so that you know a) that it is actually me posting it and b) you know I am not simply “playing the numbers” and submitting a huge number of posts. I already have a short list of posts which I intend to submit, noted below. It might take time to make some of them, so let’s just say I will get 10 reddit posts out in the next month.

Current Post Submissions: 

I should state up front that all of the posts will come from different usernames because they will include enough “lies” that they would be obviously contradictory if they came from a single user. I also plan to use the “long time lurker, first time poster, please be kind” bait pretty heavily, so obviously you can only do that once for a given user name. In no particular order the “high likelihood” posts I can think of (I will literally will think of these on the spot):

1) Picture of a very average painting I made, but will attribute it to a illness-stricken (perhaps depressed) friend or SO, and say something along the lines of “SO doesn’t think it is very good,  but I know painting has helped him/her through some tough times, and thought Reddit had to see this”

2) Picture of someone achieving something very mundane but backstory that someone else “said it could never be done.” For example “My HS counselor said ‘engineering progams are especially tough for girls’ and that I should focus on liberal arts schools. I guess MIT thought otherwise”  and then insert a photo of a girl receiving an MIT diploma.

3) Some stupid, obviously fake, obscene “TIFU” story, which is made successful by a comic juxtaposition between the title and actual events which occurred. For example “TIFU by serving urine to my fourth-grader’s class” and the actual story will be about putting a urine sample for a doctor into the fridge, and my young son thinking it was lemonade for the school bake sale.

4) B&W photo of someone looking cool, and then attributing it to my WWII veteran grandfather [self explanatory]

5) Simpson’s or Futurama screen cap submission which says something like “Absolutely the best line from the Simpson’s” or “I love Bender”. Same thing also works for anything Nick Swanson says from Parks and Recreation or Michael Scott from The Office.

6) Fake an awesomely snarky or sarcastic letter which I ostensibly gave to / received from my neighbors regarding either a) being able to hear/see people having sex b) a dog pooping in the hallway of the apartment

7) Submit a “TIL” about a cool fact about the Mongols or WWI from Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast (I have seen at least 5 of these on the front page in the last few months). I will be sure to take it out of context and overly dramatize it.

8) Submit an “Ask Reddit” asking people in the food/service industry something self-congratulatory, or giving folks a chance to whine. E.g., “Waiters of Reddit, what one little thing can I do to make your life easier?” or “Waiters or Reddit, what is your worst ‘customer from hell’ story?”

9) Submit a “LifeProTip” of something incredibly stupid you can do which in theory would increase the efficiency of your everyday life. For example “LifeProTip: Count out the direction/number of paces to exit your home and office. That way in the event of an emergency, you can do this in the dark”

10)  Submit a picture of a beautiful sunrise at any US national park.

What “Success” Looks Like:

I contend that “full success” will be if any of the posts make it to the front page at any point following their submission. “Half success” will be if any of them crack the top 100, and “failure” if not a single one achieves the top 100.

This might be the most cynical thing I have ever attempted, I am pretty excited.

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Thank You For Honking

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Note up front – I thought of the title of this post and then went looking for a photo. This photo of the clown is undoubtedly creepy but it was just too appropriate to pass on. I think that is sort of a metaphor for this blog: speaking truth to power no matter how uncomfortable it makes people feel. That and characterizing late 20’s cynicism as introspection and worldliness.

Anyway, on to the post, which on the surface is SF-centric, but I promise has a general takeaway. The question- why are people so bad at driving in San Francisco?

It’s a Fact:

I know everyone likes to bemoan the state of their local driving conditions, but this is not just my opinion – State Farm actually released a list of the worst driving cities based on average accident rates, and San Francisco was #9 on the list. That rank becomes even more surprising when you realize that almost all the other cities on the list are northeastern cities prone to far worse weather conditions than San Francisco. Weather is no small matter- a study by the NIH concluded that precipitation significantly increased crash rates and that 28% of all vehicular crashes occurred in adverse weather. The only two warm weather cities in the top ten? San Francisco and Glendale, CA. Let’s stick with SF for now, but I think their problem may be the same.

Reason 1: City Life Be Tough

This would be the argument that San Francisco is fundamentally a difficult city to drive in. I tried to find an objective measure of this, but unfortunately could. My overall read is that while the quality of the roads are below average, SF conditions are no easier/harder than most urban environments. Plausibility 2/10

Reason 2: Demographics

The stereotype (I can’t emphasize enough that this isn’t own personal opinion…sort of). Is that the culprits of a city having “bad driving” could come from a disproportional number of women, the elderly, or Asian people. Let’s see if any of these hold up (I will be brief here, read the linked reports if you have any problem with it)

  • Women
    • Does SF have more than usual? No (fewer than the national average)
    • Do they actually drive worse?
      • Non Fatal Accidents – Yes (12% higher non-fatal accident rate)
      • Fatal Accidents – No (men have an 80% higher fatal accident rate)
  • Elderly
    • Does SF have more than usual? No (roughly same as national average)
    • Do they actually drive worse?
      • Non Fatal Accidents – No (about a third of the average rate)
      • Fatal Accidents – Yes (marginallybe  higher, though that could because being so old makes you more likely to die in the accident)
  • Asians
    • Does SF have more than usual? Yes (~6x the national average)
    • Do they actually drive worse?
      • Non Fatal Accidents –TBD, no data found
      • Fatal Accidents –  No (lowest of all ethnicities)

Given how many Asians there are in SF, I really wanted to know the Asian non-fatal accident rate but couldn’t find it. Reports would indicate that it makes sense that particularly Chinese immigrants are poor drivers due to the inordinate proportion who are first-generation drivers. I suspected it would be the same as for women, where the stereotype is supported by the data that women are more likely to back into cars at Walmart but less likely to try weave through traffic at high speed and end-up being the meat in a semi-sandwich. Overall Plausibility 3/10.

Reason 3: Poor “Training”

This is my pet theory, but I actually think it makes sense. The reasoning goes that because everyone is so “kumbaya, it’s-all-good-dude” in the Bay Area, no one ever honks at all the bad drivers, so most folks are oblivious to how horrible they are and never get their act together. I unfortunately only have anecdote here, but in my judgement you can get away with far worse driving in SF than you ever would in the east coast. If you drive like a jack-ass in Philadelphia, you will hear about it from someone in about 0.2 seconds. You can basically go all day driving in the middle of two lanes in SF, but as long as you stay away from the all-sacred bike lane, no one will have much to say about it. It makes sense that the same “tolerant and non-judgmental” behaviors which has made SF the most socially liberal city in America and causes private schools to forgo grades in favor of hugs and stickers, also makes people less likely to lose their shit over poor driving etiquette. I say, Plausibility 7/10.

I also say screw tolerance when it comes to driving. I just want to get where I’m going as efficiently as possible. So for that I say- thank you for honking.