Taylor Monahan, the CEO of crypto wallet startup MyCrypto, has been moderator for the ethereum subreddit channel since 2016.
That year, the ethereum Reddit channel was just breaking over the 10,000 subscribers mark, according to SubRedditStats. Today, the same channel boasts over 400,000 subscribers and is ranked within the top 600 most popular channels on Reddit.
However, what may have started as a relatively low-commitment and low-visibility responsibility became a flash point of controversy in the ethereum community (though tensions have died down in recent days).
“Back then, there weren’t any guidelines or rules.” Monahan told CoinDesk. “We [the moderators] were all cut from the same cloth. We all had the same natural philosophy about what we should and shouldn’t do…We were pretty light-handed and mostly just removed scams and spams and stuff.”
Those duties include: approving posts that were incorrectly removed by the automoderator, removing posts that break the subreddit’s stated rules, bringing posts that require subjective decision-making to the attention of the entire moderation team, and other responsibilities that, in sum, seek to halt the spread of spammy or scammy content.
But the nature of the gig has changed, according to Monahan.
“One of the biggest differences between the early days and now is that in the early days we really did look at this as an administrative task…The larger community doesn’t look at it like that and that’s where I think the disagreement and the anger and the yelling came from,” said Monahan to CoinDesk.
The anger and the yelling Monahan refers to has been explicitly targeted at former ethereum core developer Afri Schoedon and director of the Web3Foundation Ryan Zurrer. As a result of community requests for their removal as moderators, both individuals in recent weeks have resigned from the role.
Most recently, Nick Johnson – developer for ethereum domain service ENS – also resigned, quoting a lack of time to “meaningfully contribute” and “an unhealthy streak of paranoia, conspiracy mongering and insularity” on the subreddit.
The remaining ten moderators of the ethereum subreddit have voiced varying degrees of concern about their role given that their responsibilities on the social media forum are now more heavily scrutinized by the public.
“The more people are on the sub, the higher the chance is one of your actions does not resonate well and in the worst case resonates so badly that the result is a full blown shit storm,” ethereum Reddit moderator “Ligi” told CoinDesk.
A way forward?
Internet communities are rarely immune from controversy, and ethereum’s Reddit-centric users are no exception.
And in cases where a situation intensifies and a moderator’s role is called into question, Monahan maintains that the best course of action is a self-resignation approach, as has been previously seen.
“As a group of moderators, we don’t want to ever hold a vote to cast another moderator out. That’s just terrible.” Monahan told CoinDesk. “If there is a large amount of drama surrounding a certain mod or if there is a call for that mod to leave, instead of coming up with a mechanism where everyone votes, it would be on that moderator to remove themselves and step down.”
For the most part, this is exactly how the most recent bout of controversy over subreddit moderation in the ethereum community has been diffused.
Earlier this month a tweet by Ameen Soleimani, the CEO of adult entertainment blockchain platform Spankchain, accused Schoedon of working on a competitor platform to ethereum known as Dothereum.
“I can’t actually prove that he wrote the code yet because it isn’t public, but I have heard from credible sources that he is contributing,” tweeted Soleimani. “There’s nothing wrong with anyone working on whatever they want…but we should also realize that ethereum defectors are highly incentivised to try and divide our community.”
The situation was further enflamed by user “McDongger” who called for the removal of Schoedon as a result of his engagement with other blockchain projects. Zurrer faced similar resignation calls for his involvement in creating the blockchain interoperability platform that Dothereum is built on.
In his resignation post, Zurrer put forward his belief that “the line between ‘working on ethereum’ and working on other things will blur as we move forward.”
“However, in the interest of focusing the conversation around the technology, let’s have some other community members take a turn at mod-ing so that this isn’t a debate topic,” he went on to write.
Additionally, Monahan has also offered up a 3,000 word document codifying expectations moving forward for both users and moderators on the subreddit. As stated in the post, its aim is to “provide transparency into the role of /r/ethereum moderators and define what is expected of those moderators.”
“One way to prevent conflict now or in the future is by making sure everyone is all on the same page and communicates and is transparent and the expectations are aligned,” Monahan told CoinDesk, adding:
“If you can do that then I think most the issues with not just moderation but just in general can be resolved.”