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The Reddit Information Cascade: is a site where people submit content on the internet so that users can vote and comment on them. It has a “Top” page that displays the content with the most votes of a certain time period (positive votes minus negative votes), and comments can also be voted on. Also, it has a “new” page on which newly submitted content is organized and people can vote on these as well.

Because of this public display of the number of votes a piece of content has, people are influenced by positive (or negative) numbers. On the ‘new’ page, content must collect positive votes very quickly or else it will fall off the “new page” and it won’t be seen by any more people. This site is a perfect example of information cascade. Relating to class, we can apply this site to the red-blue ball example. In class, the bin had a majority of blue balls. In my example, I assume that a certain piece of content is not a quality piece of content and therefore should be voted negatively. In class, the first two people picked red balls (even though there was a blue majority) and they voted that there was a red majority. On Reddit, this compares to the first two people voting (positively) for this (mediocre) piece of content. After the first two people act in the same way, the information cascade starts regardless of what ball the third person picked. On Reddit, even if the third person to come across that content on the new page thinks that it is mediocre, they will vote positively because they can see that so far, two other people saw it and voted positively. This trend continues and this is how sometimes content that is mediocre ends up on the top page with a lot of votes.


This picture shows an excerpt from the front page and the public vote numbers next to each piece of content.

In addition, the same phenomenon occurs in the comments. Users can see how many votes a comment has. Because of this public information, comments with negative votes are more likely to be voted down and comments that are extremely popular are more likely to be voted up. Because of the information cascade, people do not judge comments objectively. Users  of Reddit know that it is crucial that a comment is voted positively by the first few people who decide to vote or it will not create the desired positive information cascade. In these ways, the public nature of the site greatly relates to the concepts of information cascade discussed in class.


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November 2011