This week I'm exploring tools that help filter your Social Web experience. Yesterday I checked out Webicina, a medical news curation service. Today I'm re-visiting a service that has a much broader appeal, at least in terms of topics covered: reddit. The Condé Nast owned social news aggregator has become so popular that even the President of the United States made a recent campaign stop there. Part of the reason for reddit's surge in popularity is its excellent topic filtering features.
Regardless of whether you want to participate in reddit's community, which tends to be dominated by the younger demographic, reddit's topic filtering is a great way to keep track of topics near and dear to you. Reddit's own description of itself sums it up: "reddit is a source for what's new and popular online."
Using Reddit As A News Filter
All you need to register a Reddit account is a username (that isn't already taken) and a password. There's no Facebook, Twitter or Google+ connection - you don't even need an email address to sign up.
Content-wise, reddit is based around topics. The site's FAQ explains how this works:
"Reddit is made up of hundreds of sub-communities, each focused on a specific topic. There's a reddit for science, a reddit for music, and probably a reddit for your nearest city. By default, new users are subscribed to a selection of the most popular ones, but you'll get a lot more enjoyment out of the site if you take the time to subscribe to ones that appeal to you. After doing so, the front page will change to show a customized listing tailored to your interests."
Specifically, when you register you're automatically subscribed to 20 of the most popular topics. But as the FAQ points out, you'll want to personalize this - which means unsubscribing to the default topics that don't interest you and searching for topics that do.
To find new topics to subscribe to, either check the sidebar of a reddit (see screenshot below, of my Technology reddit page), or use the internal search. There are also several external directories. One called metareddit is currently tracking 167,388 reddits!
The reddit frontpage will show the hottest stories from the topics you're subscribed to. You can order the news in other ways, such as chronologically or by "controversial." To manage your topics, go to the my reddits page.
Niche Topics Galore: subreddits
Reddit covers all the bases for general interest topics - such as technology, politics, baseball and so on. But where reddit really shines is in its niche topics, or "subreddits" as they are termed. For example, suggested subreddits on the Technology page include: Privacy, Renewable Energy, Kickstarter, and (one of my personal favorites) Imaginary Technology.
Although this post is focused on using reddit as a topical news filtering tool, you may get a lot of use out of reddit as a discussions forum. In the Neuro reddit, for example, the top two items currently are questions posed by people wanting information about an aspect of neuroscience. One asks, "What would you ask a world-class neuroscience researcher if you had the opportunity to talk with them for 10 minutes?" The replies vary in quality, as in any social media site, but there are often great discussions in reddit - across hundreds of topics.
If you have any tips for using reddit effectively as a news filter, please leave a comment - or create a reddit thread!