Is totally worthless? (Shadowbanning)

And/or, are they a bunch of cloistered pussies?

As always, you get to be the judge. Remember that, because I’ll repeat it.

Says there’s about 10,300+ readers…so one would not think it worthless offhand. After all, those 10K readers could up vote a decent paleo post and perhaps get it onto the front page (such as I understand Reddit, but I don’t claim expertise).

So I hadn’t submitted my posts to Reddit in a while, because Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and other social media were working well enough. But then StumbleUpon pretty much died on me (probably too many submissions to the same URL—though they toss me a bone now and then). I hadn’t submitted anything in a very long while to Reddit, and then started doing so again recently. I hadn’t known that there has since grown up what’s called a sub-reddit: r/paleo.

What to make of it?

I just don’t know so, you get to judge. This link to one of my posts got submitted by someone else. And so did this one. In both cases, lots of votes one way or the other, lots of action and comments. Yet, everything I submitted myself got nowhere, not even up or down votes (I welcome both).

Am I just whining? You get to judge.

Here’s what else I know. I was oblivious to the whole thing until this email from a Reddit moderator.

Hi Richard,

I’m one of the moderators of r/Paleo on reddit, and I’ve been going in there every few days trying to figure out why your posts are getting eaten by our spam filter. Turns out — you’ve been subjected to a sneaky and totally arbitrary form of secret banning called “shadowbanning.” A while ago, someone decided that you posting links to your own blog was “spamming” and reported you to the higher-ups. As you should know, posting links to your own blog on reddit is totally legit, as long as you’re not just posting links to a store or something. Doesn’t apply to you, because you’re a legitimate blogger. Shadowbanning means that, to you, everything looks fine, but to the rest of the world your account is completely invisible.

Even though I’m a mod and I specifically put your name on a list of approved submitters, the admins of reddit can do whatever they want. I discovered that this had happened this morning and sent an e-mail to the admins asking them to undo it. I just wanted to bring you up to speed about what’s going on, since you had no way of knowing because of the way they arrange it. Hopefully they will respond to this request and unban you. I’ll let you know.

Anyway, thanks for contributing to r/Paleo (or trying to, at least!) and I hope this all gets resolved. I’ve enjoyed your blog for many years.

You get to judge.

You can Google around for shadowbanning if you like, but essentially, it’s a means whereby someone is banned, so their posts or comments or whatever don’t show up—except to them (uses their IP address and/or cookie to tell when they’re there). Given the perniciousness of spam, I can see a value to this—actually, far more so for trolls.

OK, since you get to judge, let’s take a look. Here’s a screen shot of recent submissions, from my primary Mac computer (click to open full size).

Screen Shot 2012 02 10 at 11 22 44 AM
Screen Shot 2012 02 10 at 11 22 44 AM

So one post did get a little action a week ago, but that wasn’t a link to, but to Everything else has not a single up or down vote, or a comment. Now, I hate to get all haughty and shit—and just maybe all 10,000 people or Reddit neither love nor hate me, but are just indifferent—but that’s a bit odd, given I have 100K visits here a month, dozens of comments per post on average, and typically many social shares via FB, Twitter and the like.

Since I’m an entrepreneur and have technical means, I logged into one of my company servers in Modesto, CA via Remote Desktop, fired up Firefox on the Windows server and searched my username without logging in (click to enlarge).

Screen Shot 2012 02 10 at 2 48 34 PM
Screen Shot 2012 02 10 at 2 48 34 PM

So, does that mean that anyone but me, coming from my own computer IP or with a Reddit cookie, that no one sees my submissions but me, specifically posted to the r/Paleo subreddit? Sure looks like it.

You get to judge.

I was all ready to drop a bomb on this and attempt to entertain as I sometimes do, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. This is the community, after all—for one thing—but more than that, I simply do not know. I don’t know if it’s just Reddit algorithms that spam my stuff because it’s normally from the same URL (my blog), or whether there really is a group of cloistered individuals who want their own territory.

And since I don’t know, it can only go to you, as judge.


  1. Justin Ross on February 10, 2012 at 16:41

    Just a bit of info:

    I’m one of the (admittedly newer) mods at /r/paleo. I wouldn’t presume to speak for everyone over there, but some feedback from our side of things:

    As far as I’ve seen, there isn’t a “shadowbanning” option available to subreddit mods. There *might* be one available to higher-ups, but I seriously doubt it. What this means is, your posts getting caught in the spam filter aren’t the result of anyone out to get you or with a personal vendetta.

    From what I’ve read/heard, reddit’s automated spam filter takes a lot of things into consideration, including when an account links regularly to the same domain, and/or doesn’t really participate in conversations.

    Since your account page throws a 404 (no clue why. Privacy setting, maybe?), we don’t really have any easy way of checking your comment history to see if the latter is true or not.

    So, to make a long story short, it would appear that your reddit account has fallen prey to reddit’s (not /r/paleo. Just reddit in general) automated spam filter.

    Now, that said, mods do have the ability to “approve” posts caught in the spam filter, and some of yours have been manually approved (probably the ones you mentioned having some activity).

    As I said, I can’t speak for the other mods, but the reason I, personally, have been leaving your posts in the spam filter is that:

    1) I’m a pretty new mod, so I’m still getting a feel for how things are run, and
    2) Reddit’s spam policies seem pretty clearly to put your posts on the “spam” side of things:

    I don’t think that anyone at /r/paleo has a problem with you or your posts (okay, that’s not true. I’ve been reading your blog for a year. I think you and I would both be amazed if nobody had a problem with you), but either way, that has nothing to do with your posts not showing up.

    Just my two cents, before the community weighs in.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2012 at 17:38


      Exactly why I reiterated You Gat To Judge.

      Yes, i know my profile goes to a 404 (I now this but didn’t include it). I will check privacy setting ASAP to see if that fixes that.


      And thanks for the link. Thing is, there’s a bit of a vicious circle there. I did very much participate in comments when two of my posts were submitted by others and one got like 34 ups and another 70-something, both with comments.

      But how can I participate I’m comments if i get none.

      That said, I kinda get it. I really don’t have time to spend there, too much. It would be best if others submitted the links.

      Question for you. When I do submit a link, I get a permalink. Were I to Tweet or FB that, would it show up to people if they clicked and could they U/D vote and comment?

      • Darxus on February 10, 2012 at 20:38

        Your question about posting permalinks to twitter or facebook sound like you didn’t read that faq link very thoroughly, specifically where it said ‘But we’re serious about the “not people you asked to go vote for you” part.’

        I’m really new to reddit, but I think the problem is that reddit really isn’t intended for people to post links to their own work. It’s intended for other people who thought your work was awesome enough to post links to it.

        I read and enjoyed a couple of your posts before I just saw this subject come up on reddit.

      • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2012 at 21:04

        A new development is that I spoke on the phone with a commenter on the thread surrounding this post and I think I have a better handle on things.

        Not sure how much time I’m going to invest, but there are aspects I find appealing, especially for the sort of work I do.

  2. Joao Eira on February 11, 2012 at 04:14

    Hey Richard,

    Have you seen this? .

    I can only be a terrible sign when Doug Mcguff, arguably one of the best speakers out there on the Paleo and HIT scene, has his talk rejected by the AHS.

    What do you make of it?

    • Richard Nikoley on February 11, 2012 at 08:36

      I saw it and gave some support by tweeting his post and putting on the FB page.

      I guess we’ll see what happens. In my view, AHS presenters who went last year and did so at their own expense ought to be accorded preference if they wish to come back, but that’s just me.

  3. Kris on February 11, 2012 at 05:08

    I got on the front page of reddit/r/trees on a saturday night once for an article I wrote about marijuana being addictive. I did get a lot of traffic (20.000 pot heads) from it, and almost 300 extremely hateful comments.

    In the beginning when I didn’t have many readers I would submit a lot of my articles on there, looking back it was perhaps kind of spammy.

    After reading this thread and the comments I think I might start a new account there, be a little more active in the community, do comments, submit others articles and then once in a while submit only my best stuff that is already getting some likes/tweets.

  4. Kevin Teague on February 10, 2012 at 17:33

    r/paleo has 10,000 subscribers, but most people don’t vote. So links usually don’t get upvoted beyond 50 or 100 votes. Front page links on reddit usually have 1000 to 3000 votes, so a sub-reddit like r/paleo really needs to hit about 100,000 subscribers before posts reach “reddit mainstream”.

    When I joined r/paleo it was only at 500 subscribers. That was less than two years ago. There are traffic stats available to r/paleo admins that show that we get about 4,000 unique visitors per day (and 25K uniques per month) and we’re getting around 75 new subscribers per day (and a huge uptick right after January 1st – lol).

    I’ve seen other sub-reddits where someone signs up with a really crappy blog and they start submitting links to their own stuff like mad and everyone on the sub-reddit gets annoyed, so I can see why the owners of reddit would implement some kind of spam flagging and shadowbanning feature.

    Sub-reddits like r/fitness have skyrocketed from around 10,000 subs (when r/paleo was at 500 subs) to over 120,000 subs today. There is a lot of paleo love in that sub-reddit, so despite r/paleo being relatively small, it’s good too see swelling support for increased awareness of paleo eating. People like Kurt Harris (aka Silverhydra) have done a lot of moderation work in r/fitness that has helped keep the quality up during it’s period of growth. r/paleo hasn’t had mods who’ve been as active at improving the sub-reddit so by contrast it’s a bit more of an “anything goes” kind of place. A lot of the content these days is people new to paleo posting pictures of meals they ate on their first week, etc.

    Reddit’s link voting and commenting features are pretty good. I think it’d be really cool if prominent paleo writers were participating and submitting links more, I think the potential for growth of the sub-reddit is there and it’s a good site-neutral forum with the ability to bring in exposure to people who haven’t heard of paleo. I doubt you getting caught in the spam filter was an intentional slight and I don’t think the reddit owners are “cloistered pussies” – lol – they’re a relatively small team (with a lot of liberal and open minded tendancies) and the site has had massive, exponential traffic growth in the last few years.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2012 at 17:43

      Wow, Kevin.

      Thanks for helping to cure my ignorance.

      I sat on doing this post for a couple of weeks, just couldn’t make it a rant, glad I did the post and glad I didn’t make it a rant.

    • ajrw on February 10, 2012 at 23:07

      Minor (?) correction, but Silverhydra is not Kurtis Frank, not Kurt Harris.

  5. justin on February 10, 2012 at 17:35

    I don’t think you should take the “shadowban” thing personally at all. If it weren’t for these kinds of algorithms, reddit would be filled with garbage. It looks like a mod noticed what had happened and took action on it – kudos to him.

    I find Reddit to be very worthwhile, and /r/paleo isn’t a subreddit I even check very often. You should spend some time dickin around on there and subscribing to subreddits that interest you. I like /r/fitness, /r/libertarian and /r/personalfinance. Also, just start posting comments on there! It’s nice to have people who know what they’re talking about get involved.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2012 at 19:42


      I’m in comments now, trying my hand at mixing things up. Right now, only r/paleo. We’ll see how it goes. It kinda reminds me of USENET back in the day. There were few dumb commenters because it took some doing to get there.

  6. Austin on February 10, 2012 at 18:06

    BTW – Silverhydra is Kurtis Frank, certainly not to be confused with Kurt Harris!

    • Austin on February 10, 2012 at 18:07

      Oops, meant for this to be a reply to Kevin Teague…

    • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2012 at 18:22

      Thanks for that’. It was difficult to wrap my mind around the prospect of Kurt spending his time that way.

    • Kevin Teague on February 10, 2012 at 19:36

      Oops – my slip up!

  7. Eric on February 10, 2012 at 19:18

    Believe me, you should be thankful for measures like this. Take a look at Digg’s subreddit equivalent (Newsrooms) to see what things are like without aggressive spam algorithms or shadowbanning. The Reddit admins are handling it way way better than I would have expected. If you get ghosted on Craigslist for example there is literally no one who can help you.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2012 at 19:44


      Thanks for the data point.

      BTW, since this post it looks like submissions are now out in the open. I’m in comments now for this post. Getting heat, but giving back hotter. Don;t know how that will work out, but I never do bullshit.

  8. Nick on February 10, 2012 at 19:29

    Most points have already been addressed, but you should also know that trying to get a submission upvoted to where most people will see it at Reddit is like trying to light a match when there are wind gusts. Sometimes you might succeed in getting a fire lit if it gets upvoted by the first few people to see it, or if the first person to see it downvotes, it may die in obscurity. It’s not uncommon for a popular link to be submitted by twenty different people closely spaced in time and it’s largely a random/emergent process that determines which one will make it to the front page. Additionally, looking through unupvoted submissions in the /new queue of Reddit or one of its subreddits is a thankless job akin to sorting through trash trying to find a lost retainer, and only a small minority of people do it, meaning your post’s fate hinges on the opinion of many fewer people than the number who read the upvoted posts.
    That said, I have r/paleo frontpaged and would upvote your stuff if I saw it.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2012 at 19:50


      Thanks for more data points. It’s an interesting social network to me, from what i know of it so far.

      I have and do find the commenting pretty decent, so I may spend some time there and see what happens. For sure, there are some wankers in there, the type who never do anything but criticize and tear down what others do, in order to kinda pretend they’re creating something.

      They’re typically on dad’s computer.

      • Eric on February 10, 2012 at 20:32

        Comment quality on the net in my opinion:

        1. Quora (but there are too many unchallenged people pretending to be smart

        2. Reddit (great because there are so many geeks that most wankers get called out on their bullshit quickly)

        3. Google+ (but it depends on the poster what the commenters are like)

        4. Facebook

        5. Digg

        6. YouTube (LOL)

      • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2012 at 21:01

        Ha, well, I can proudly say that I’ve never commented on 5 or 6. Yea, LOL on 6. Every now and then when I look at a video I will scroll to scan comments just a but. Almost always sorry I did that.

  9. Shadowbanning | Barbarism on February 11, 2012 at 05:08

    […] Is totally worthless? (Shadowbanning) ← The Scar Project […]

  10. Hugh Anderson on February 11, 2012 at 06:18

    I popped into r/paleo for the first time this past week and noticed a discussion about Dr. Jaminet’s recent article on pork. I was disgusted to see that nearly every commenter said, effectively, “Correlation is not causation, this Jaminet guy is a fool, nothing to see here.” It’s the type of mindless attitudes I’d expect from other diet sheep – “this doesn’t fit my dietary wordlview so I’m going to dismiss it out of hand using a catchphrase that signals I, like, get science. That dude needs to go back to Science 101. Also, the plural of anecdote is not data.” No thanks, I don’t have time for that level of discussion.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 11, 2012 at 08:32

      I took this up because I had some suspicion of it being somewhat of a cloistered echo-chamber. They call it a community.

      I was mixing it up in comments with some last night. Keeping an open mind, now. We’ll see.

  11. Josh on February 12, 2012 at 08:18

    Typically, posting your own content on Reddit is frowned upon. I know the mod who contact you said it was legit, but in my experience, mods only let that slide if the majority of content you post is not your own. In my experience Reddit is very paranoid of self promotion. Highly recommended you asking the mods to do an IAMA post, the one place where self promotion is encouraged.

  12. Amy on February 12, 2012 at 05:20

    I won’t speak on the shadowbanning issue because I’m not that familiar with it.

    I just wanted to add that reddit is a communal site, not just an aggregator of the latest news. It’s managed to be one of the few places on the internet that DOESN’T get its content bogged down with every blogger trying to make a quick dime (not you, but you know what I’m talking about).

    Remember reddit isn’t there to serve you as a blogger or content creator. The best strategy to get lots of clickthroughs from /r/paleo is to write good stuff (which you do). You don’t even have to post it to reddit yourself – trust me, there are lots of your readers on the paleo subreddit. When we like your stuff enough someone will share it and others will upvote it.

    The other winning strategy on reddit is to join in! I bet the paleo subreddit would love to see you contribute your point of view in the group, or even do an IAMA. It’s a great place to post your food porn too.

  13. Kelly Mahoney on February 12, 2012 at 09:00

    As of 2/12/12, by searching “rnikoley” at I can see that you submitted this post to and there are 58 comments, but there are zero votes. If I go to, this post doesn’t show up in the first 100 posts (I stopped looking), I suppose because there are zero votes.

  14. Paul Verizzo on February 12, 2012 at 19:43

    More evidence why I will never, ever do Facebook, Twitter, all these social sites. Too much shit with the potential. Whatever I might create in the wa of writings or assorted webpages, let them stand on their own and not be a vulgar popularity contest.

    What we need, and this is very paleo, is more face time, not more Facebook. That’s how we sidestepped mental illness and anti-social behaviors for hundreds of thousands of years. We were community.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 13, 2012 at 08:38

      Twitter is great, I think, because it’s non-reciprocal. I only follow about 80 carefully chosen, and have about 4,200 followers. I ONLY use my personal Fecebook for friends & family I know in real life face time. For the blog, I have a FTA Facebook page.

  15. Dee on May 16, 2012 at 07:24

    I think they just have super aggressive banning algorithms. I have had a few issues but moderators have always sorted them out quickly.

  16. Bill Wayne on July 6, 2012 at 07:49

    Reddit moderators are childish, they are patronising users. On on hand they allow F*** words in comment sections even if reported (probably it´s their own language), on the other hand they ban valuable contents because some competitors or some of their friends reported them as spam.
    Very easily you can get banned without any warning. User-base seem to be poor, too. Can´t take it serious. I stopped using it.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.