Calling Reddit a community is a bit like calling Los Angeles a community. It is actually a network of countless sub-communities (conveniently called 'subreddits') held together by an absolute respect for anonymity, free speech and the democratic process.
If you post what you want, upvote what you like and downvote what you don't like, what will emerge is an aggregate of what the community finds valuable. That's the idea, anyway.
Reddit's radical libertarianism works quite well in bringing together large groups of people with niche interests to experiment with new ideas. Redditors can hash out novel concepts well before the mainstream media has had the time or the incentive to formulate a uniform take.
In particular, in the last few years, Reddit has lit up with discussion and controversy surrounding new digital currencies.
Its largest subreddit dedicated to cryptocurrency, r/bitcoin, was a vital part of the bitcoin scene well before the cryptocurrency inspired widespread public fascination.
Anyone can post or comment on /r/bitcoin, but a few recognizable stock characters often dominate the conversation.
Here are the five most common cryptocurrency caricatures you'll meet wandering the pages of r/bitcoin.
1. The Booster
It takes a certain degree of enthusiasm to invest time, for free, in sharing knowledge, ideas, and jokes on Reddit. Needless to say, /r/bitcoin draws a disproportionate number of active members who are really, really psyched about bitcoin.
While the Booster has played an important role in publicizing bitcoin and encouraging its use and development, he can sometimes be more than a tad embarrassing.
For example, witness the people who thought the Silk Road bust and the collapse of the Russian Ruble were good news for bitcoin. Or the guy who got banned from his favorite Chinese restaurant for trying to tip in bitcoin, behaving like a violent jackass when it wasn't accepted, and bragging about it.
2. The Early Investor
It's easy to mistake the Early Investor for the Booster, and it's important to examine all posts closely and maintain a healthy skepticism about their underlying motives.
Like the Booster, the Early Investor sank a lot of time and money into bitcoin before it was cool. But the Early Investor sometimes has more cynical motives for pumping everyone's enthusiasm.
Since bitcoin is a deflationary currency that rewards early adopters over latecomers, it is in the Early Investor's interest to encourage ongoing risk. Early Investors will drive up bitcoin's price to dangerous levels in hopes of cashing out at newcomers' expense.
3. 'John Galt'
When bitcoin is in crisis, such as it was after the collapse of Mt Gox, a 'John Galt' will check in with a pompous pep talk. A John Galt is often a worried Early Investor or a cozy VC who can sustain a loss that might cripple less well-padded users. Or he may just be a random dude who enjoys speaking in lofty, imminently mockable proclamations. The nickname is likely a reference to a character in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged.
4. The Altcoiner
While bitcoin alternatives such as litecoin and dogecoin have their own tightly knit communities on Reddit, sometimes altcoiners check in at /r/bitcoin to see what's going on.
Many /r/bitcoin denizens harbor a disproportionate animus for altcoins, particularly dogecoin. This can lead to dark comedy when, for instance, a dogecoiner finds a recently washed-out former bitcoin millionaire and offers a doge tip, the equivalent of tossing pennies.
Dogecoin was largely satirical from the get-go, and its adherents derive a lot of laughs from their feud with bitcoin. Light tussles can escalate quickly when Boosters take dogecoin as an existential threat and leap into comedy quicksand. A lot of dogecoin's inside jokes have taken on added life in /r/bitcoin. If you were wondering what the deal is with the 'To the Moon!' guy, there you go.
5. The Troll
There is some overlap here with the Altcoiners, but the most adamant /r/bitcoin trolls have no faith in bitcoin as a currency or an investment, and consider it their moral mission to debunk the hype surrounding it.
They get a lot of traction because Boosters, Early Investors, and particularly John Galts fall so easily into their negativity traps. More level-headed /r/bitcoin users often waste hours and hours explaining to them, again and again, that their community's most over-the-top elements are more visible than they are influential.
The only way to get much out of the valuable ideas and discussion on /r/bitcoin is to maintain a strict don't-feed-the-trolls policy.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, CoinDesk.
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