The story of the failed petition
The petition in question: HERE.
It cannot be overstated how poorly this petition and request was handled, and that the ramifications of it will most likely be felt for months to come.
Lets start with the first issue, how the request was framed. This could have been a slam dunk opportunity to warn the /r/overwatch crowd about the various pitfalls that large game subreddits have run into in the past, the various outcomes of potential fixes, and how the submission rules of /r/overwatch could be setup to preempt the sustainability issues that other subreddits have run into in the past. Instead, before even the end of the first paragraph the current quality of the submissions to /r/overwatch is attacked, though the use of a term that within the general Reddit community is considered to be inflammatory. If I was a moderator of a subreddit, and I was getting told in a letter that had less signatories than this post was upvoted that my subreddit was flooded with low quality content, I’d take that as an attack and not as someone looking to help improve my community. I’d go even further to say that in the postmortem video, indirectly accusing the same mods who’s help is needed of bias and laziness is a very easy way to discourage them from working with you in the future.
Second, we of course need to look at the actual request. Instead of targeting a way to raise awareness of high quality, long form discussion, instead the petition sought to try and force a MASSIVE cultural and content shift in a 775k member community that has shown 0 signs of actually wanting a change in content. If your goal is to try and convert the current casual base into becoming fans of the competitive, if not the professional scene, based off of my experience in the TF2 community I can easily say that antagonizing them is the wrong way to do it. Rather, I believe that the smarter action would have been to find quality longform content that would appeal to the CASUAL(unranked) community, and try to show both the moderators and the greater community what the subreddit is lacking, and then work on ways to promote non-esports longform content. The first step to getting esports content on the main subreddit isn’t to discourage posting of the current content, but rather to plant the seeds of a cultural shift.
Finally, I have to question the decision to have Monte’s name the the one most prominently associated with the petition. Surely the writers were aware of the reputation he has among many community members, who regard him as someone whos arrogant and at odds with authority figures? By attaching Monte’s name to the letter, they associated all of the assumptions and perceptions that the community has about him to the letter. This had the effect of readers personifying the requests being made into a representation of Monte, rather than a unified community. To me this demonstrates shortsightedness because as a moderator, I’d feel an obligation to push against a request being penned by someone whos publicly spoken against several different subreddit moderators in the past. Surely someone like Doa would have been a much better choice of a figurehead, no?
At the start of the postmortem video, the way that the original letter was described is very similar to what I’m proposing is submitted. I wholeheartedly believe that had the originally planned letter been what was seen by the community, rather than the current petition, it would have been much better received, and this post wouldn’t have been made at all.
I write this not to try and act like some know-it-all whos telling the people who are attempting to create change that they’re doing it wrong, but because I genuinely believe that there is still an opportunity to both admit that the current petition failed, and create a new, more moderate request that shows the competitive community is willing to work with the moderators of the main subreddit. The time to act and lay the foundation for change is now, and more importantly, I do not believe that the opportunity has been squandered…yet.