The Dota 2 subreddit is a powerful community hub maintained by an underappreciated group of volunteers. Today, I’m looking closer at what (and who) makes r/DotA2 tick.
“Pro tip for Warlock players: If you fatal bond your enemies to Roshan, they can’t Rosh. And you can get a rampage by killing Roshan with your team after they leave Roshan pit.”
“Ticketmaster, flawless as always”
“Huge thanks from DreamHack / Feedback Q&A”
I took those headlines straight from the r/DotA2 subreddit front page on March 27th, 2018. Each thread addresses something different. One offers advice to players, while another complains about ticket refund issues for The International 8. The third is a representative from DreamHack thanking viewers for watching Corsair Dream League Season 9 and opening up a Q&A. This is a small sample of the variety of things you can find on the subreddit at any given moment. The site provides information, conversation, and entertainment with a mostly do-it-yourself approach as redditors submit the majority of the subreddit’s content in the form of discussion threads.
The subreddit has additional assets, however, curated by its moderation team. The site makes the most of its sidebar to provide links to livestreams, a match ticker, a list of ongoing/upcoming Dota 2 Pro Circuit (DPC) events, team standings in the DPC, and links to relevant subreddits and other resources. Full disclosure: I volunteer to maintain the Google calendar that one of the sidebar elements utilizes. Volunteering exposed me to a small bit of what happens behind-the-scenes to keep the subreddit running smoothly. That’s given me a greater appreciation for the site and the people who volunteer to moderate it.
I spoke with one of the moderators, Coronaria, about the moderation team and the work they do. There are twelve mods, roughly half of whom are active at any given time, with another seven volunteers called the “events crew” who assist with the tournament threads, flairing posts, and writing weekly item and hero discussion threads.
I wanted to know what it takes to be a good moderator of the site. I could imagine a number of qualities, including patience, a lot of free time, and thick skin. Coronaria had a much better answer for me:
“Flexibility. While we do have a set of basic rules, we understand that the community is changing and situations come up that we can’t anticipate. It’s important to avoid blindly applying the rulebook and instead being critical about how we do things. It’s important that we try to extract the criticism the community gives us, regardless of the way they might be presenting it.”
The latter point is important because the site has a reputation for toxicity. Perhaps it’s due to the freedom of posting anonymously and maybe a reflection of the Dota 2 player base’s overall attitude. Whatever the reasons, there’s as much chance of having a reasonable and respectful discussion as there is of having a post overwhelmed with negativity on r/DotA2. At times, I’ve found the harsh words of redditors frustrating, so I could only imagine what it was like for the moderators who monitor the space.
When I asked about the philosophy guiding the moderation of the site, Coronaria had this to say:
“We try to be as non-interventionist as possible with the focus on doing what’s best for the community and Dota 2. We remove things that are *too* low effort/quality or angry posts that go a tad too far. At the end of the day, we want the users to have the most power over their community while making sure all content creators have a chance of getting attention for their hard work when their content is good.
I personally think it’s best when the subreddit doesn’t notice it has mods at all and things just run smoothly in the background. That obviously doesn’t always happen.”
Even with that philosophy in mind, the subreddit requires hours of attention. While the moderators have no hierarchy and discuss bigger issues as a group to produce a unified approach, Coronaria indicated that when there’s significant drama going on in the professional scene, the moderators take a more hands-on approach, even manually approving threads to ensure they meet a basic standard.
I asked Coronaria if there were ever moments that had the moderators feeling the way one of Trevor “Ninja” Blevins’ moderators felt the night Drake, and a massive influx of viewers, joined his stream, as per the tweet above. Her response?
Definitely. Most recently would be the ESL Facebook uproar, which happened at a horrible time zone for me. We want to maintain the balance between allowing people to vent their frustration and keeping one topic from being the *only* topic people are able to discuss because it’s flooding everything else out. There were also months last year when there were only one or two of us active and it was pretty stressful; we definitely dropped the ball in some areas, like with some of the hateful vitriol against players.”
Despite the community’s occasional hostility and fickleness, r/DotA2’s grown to be a significant voice for fans of Dota 2. Some of us believe Valve listens to the site’s collective demands at times. The usual evidence offered to prove this is the 2015 uproar around Dakota “KotlGuy” Cox’ lack of invite to The International 5, which was quickly followed by him receiving an invite. Whether or not the subreddit changed minds at Valve isn’t on public record (as far as I’m aware), but the entire incident certainly made an impression—and is a good example of the community supporting someone, balancing out some of that negativity!
There’ve been plenty of other cases of positive threads, supporting the good work of casters and content makers. The moderators got in on the act when they provided a way for redditors to show support via their flair text for popular caster and host, Jorien “Sheever” van der Heijden after she publicly disclosed her breast cancer diagnosis.
The site has also been used for communication between Valve and the community, such as when James “2GD” Harding was fired and Gabe released a statement directly through the subreddit. Tournament organizers have also used the site for communication, such as ESL, who recently used the site to communicate regarding their decision to move to Facebook exclusively for streaming, and Dream Hack as in the headline I quoted at the beginning of this article.
Organizers are smart to use the site for communication; the website reddit metrics indicates r/DotA2 reached 400,000 subscribers on Feb 1st, 2018, and is the 245th most popular subreddit by number of subscribers. That may be a number of subscribers that the moderators find both daunting and rewarding.
The work the moderation team does for so many users is often unrecognized. Though we might understand moderation to be a necessary part of any community, the exact scope of it—the curation of information, the gentle touch to keep things somewhat civilized, the depth of thought that goes into decision-making—is, I think, overlooked. All of the moderators care about the community and about Dota 2, and I’m both impressed by and grateful for the time and effort they put into the subreddit.
I want to give the last word to Coronaria. I asked her if there was anything she’d like to let the community know about what it takes to maintain the subreddit:
“Shoutout to the events crew. It’s extremely thankless and easy to burn out doing those day in and day out, so props to the current iteration of the crew for being so on top of things and taking most of that responsibility off our plate.”