Everything You Wanted to Know About Reddit (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Reddit, also known as “The front page of the internet” is a social news and entertainment forum where users submit content in the form of links, images, or text posts. Users then decide on where the content ranks by “upvoting” or “downvoting” a post or comment, leading more popular posts to gain traction by scoring points and a higher position on the front page or forum of origin. Individual forums are known as “subreddits” and focus on a particular area of interest, of which there are over 9,600 active ones. Registered users (often referred to as “Redditors”) can select which forums to follow on their customized front page, but there are several core “default subreddits.” These subreddits fall into the categories of Educational, Entertainment, Discussion-based, Humor, Image Sharing, Self-Improvement, Technology, and Meta.

Reddit by the numbers:

  • Founded in June 2005 (Happy 10th birthday!)
  • In June 2015, Reddit had over 163 million unique visitors (that’s greater than the population of Russia!), from over 212 countries, viewing over 7 billion pages.
  • In 2014, there were over 71 billion Reddit page views (up from 56 billion in 2013).

r/Science

r/Science is one of the most popular default subreddits, in the Educational category. It boasts over 8.7 million subscribers, and its posts are consistently on the default front page. Posts are categorized into scientific subfields that users can filter posts by. Many of r/Science’s posts are external links to scientific news, but its most popular feature is the AMA Series. r/Science is among the fastest growing subreddits today.

The AMA Series

One of Reddit’s most unique feature is the “Ask Me Anything” or AMA. These are text-based Q&A sessions where the featured participant initiates a text post to which Reddit users respond and ask questions through the comments section of the post. The original poster then replies to these questions in the comments, which are highlighted and generally upvoted for visibility. The objective of the AMA is that it is not focused on a single topic, but rather that responders can field questions about any topic. Most AMAs take place in r/IAmA (notable participants include Barack Obama, Chris Hadfield, Bill Nye, David Attenborough, and Neil deGrasse Tyson), but many subreddits host AMAs as well.

r/Science has one of the most structured AMA series within a specialized subreddit. Its aim is to “to encourage discussion and facilitate outreach while helping to bridge the gap between practicing scientists and the general public.” (Source: Reddit Science Submission Guide) The moderators of the subreddit maintain a schedule of a daily AMA (excluding weekends), which usually go live at 1pm but are posted in advance so questions have time to accumulate. Most r/science AMAs are from scientists in a variety of fields and institutions, Stephen Hawking even hosted an AMA at the end of July.

ACS has begun to host AMAs on Tuesdays, usually featuring scientific experts affiliated with the society. In the past months, Carolyn Bertozzi, Editor-in-Chief of ACS Central Science and Jillian Buriak, Editor-in-Chief of Chemistry of Materials, participated in AMAs and fielded a number of questions from researchers in the community, so be sure and check them out. Also stay tuned for a Q&A with Nathan Allen, moderator with r/Science, in an upcoming issue of ACS Axial.