Reddit is a discussion forum website. AskHistorians is a subreddit, for people who want to learn more about history can post their questions, or browse through past discussion posts about history. Anyone with good knowledge or research skills can post answers to community members questions.
The majority of interactions in this subreddit occur through questions posted by other members. A community member can post a question, answer a question report another user, upvote or downvote a question or response or read posted questions and responses.
AskHistorians is one of the leading historical discussion communities on reddit. They have a high expectations in terms of what content is posted and discussed. To accomplish this high standard of content this community is guided by common values, as well as active moderators that enforce the subreddits rules.
Members of AskHistorians joined because of a common interest in history, but these common values are responsible for keeping this subreddit united. Arguably the most important, and sometimes referred to as the 'Prime Directive' is civility. The intent of this community is to answer questions about the past, and the historical arena can be a contentious place. The civility rule is important to make sure that answers and conversations are at a professional, academic level.
Many of these features are available throughout Reddit, but the way AskHistorians uses these features differentiates the way they function from other sub-communities within Reddit. Specifically the moderation, how memebers gain Flair, what members can post and how members can post.
We rated each feature of AskHistorians based on the 5 Elements of Community Experience by Dori Tunstall.
The ability for members to openly express their history is fairly limited in this community. Members can apply for 'Flair' to show their expertise in a particular subject in history, but as far as expressing themselves its limited to world history. Posting a question to express their curiosity, or answering a posted question are ways for members to express their knowledge and potentially experience of history.
Members can support other members by upvoting a post or response for more visibility as well as answer a posted question. Members Professional development can grow by responding to posted questions with research and cited sources. Members can increase their knowledge by reading responses to questions answered as well as by researching potential answers to questions.
Most decisions in AskHistorians are made as a group, or by the moderators. If a member is unhappy about a rule, or behavior in the community, they can suggest a change and other community members can discuss and vote. Moderators oversee this processes as well as enforcing the rules throughout the community. Asking or answering posted questions is the most visible way for members to contribute to the community.
A member can upvote or downvote to directly influence the visibility of a post or response. This is one of the most important features of this community, if a posted question doesn't get enough upvote, members are less likely to see it, and it is less likely to be answered. Members can also report another member for not following the rules. Posting By Posting or answering a question, a member can contribute to the overall content of the community.
Flair, commenting and moderators have big impact on relationships in this community. Flair can only be added to a members username if they prove their expertise in a subject and prove they've positively contributed to the community. Commenting and posting both reinforce both the rules and standards of the content posted. Moderators can be relied upon to enforce the rules of the community, to ensure consistency and the standards of the community are met.
After our initial research, we created proto-personas to find out who are users are, what their motivations are and how they use the subreddit. Based on a subreddit census at the 500K subscribers the majority of /r/AskHistorians were white, educated (undergraduate degree or higher) males with an average age of 27 and favoring Western European History, Military History, Medieval History, History of Ancient Greece/Rome and Science and Technology History.
At this stage we had done a bit of research about AskHistorians, and we then made a learning plan to find where the gaps were in our current understanding of this learning community were. From this process we identified 4 types of members (askers, answerers, readers and moderators) and their goals, behaviors and what features they used.
Answerers and moderators were both heavily involved in the subreddit, while askers were slightly less involved and readers even more so. Moderators quickly removed posts/responses that broke the rules, maintained the wiki and hosted and organized events. Answerers posted comprehensive and cited responses to questions and sometimes searched for related questions previously answered to respond with. Askers checked to see if their question had already been asked and posted questions. Readers read questions and answers, searched the wiki and through previously answered questions.