Hello Voat, I see your site is coming along nicely. This may be my new site, but I have a few things i want to confirm before i make the jump.
Let me start off by saying that I have been using forums for a pretty long time. I started off in middle school when i got my first computer. The internet was a wild place back then, and you never stayed in one place too long, jumping from website to website. It was kind of like the early universe, chaotic and free and you never knew what you would find. The forums i used were many and lost in the sands of time.
By 2003, the internet had stabilized a bit, and I became addicted and loyal to a single forum. These were the Go-gaia forums. They were open and free and anyone could talk about anything. They divided into simple categories like "chatterbox" and "stories" and "art" were very primitive compared to the forums we enjoy today. There was no upvoting or downvoting that i can remember, but you did get points for participating in discussions. These points were then used to customize a little avatar. It was simple, and it was easy to get into at 13 years old.
The site became unappealing to me when they tried to capitalize on their success, and started introducing a bunch of things into the website that were unrelated to the forums. Games, puzzles, avatar homes/cars, a village to walk around in, and its eventually it's own RPG(but i was gone by then). The forums took a backseat, and were completely forgotten and abandoned.
My next forum(i hate to admit), was 4chan. At the time, this site seemed like a daring new forum full of adult content and complete and total freedom of speech. It seemed great at first, there was some kind of war going on about Queen boxxy, the strangest things you would ever see, and people would say things that you never thought anyone would admit in their wildest dreams. Embarrassing things you would never say in person because you would be shamed and called a freak. This introduced the idea into my head that the internet could be a place of total anonymity, where you can let go of your secrets and find a world of people who do those same things. "Other people look at their toilet paper after taking a shit to make sure they're clean? Who would admit doing that!?!" i thought. It really is something we take for granted now, because we all say things on forums which we would never say on "facebook" for example.
4chan was okay for a while, but every now and then you would see things that you really wish you hadn't, from illegal content to people sharing pictures of their assholes. It had the freedom, but not the restraint. The community was utter poison. I started getting tired of it, but stuck around because there was always new content, but that is when i found Stumbleupon.
Stumble upon was great because it was always new content, but it lacked any kind of real community that forums have, good or bad. The content was always new, but you never really knew if you would enjoy it or not, i enjoyed it for a while, but shortly after my friend introduced me to a better site, Digg!
Digg was the precursor to reddit, in the sense that reddit was an exact replica that improved upon things(but i'll get back to that). Digg was a website that seemed entirely community driven. All content was content that users shared from all over the internet, but with a system that allowed users to choose which things they liked, and which things they did not. All the best things would appear on the front page, and all the terrible things were never seen. Comments worked in the same way, and acted as a community moderation system, or a true democracy.
Digg became ridiculously popular, too big to fail(they thought). They had so many users that they were able to make a TV show and became the primary website for most people. This is where the story took a turn. Digg had so many users, and so much popularity, that they decided to cash in on their users. They started filling up the front page with paid advertising and fake articles, and heavily censoring and deleting comments that they did not approve of, anything to increase profitability. The users took a backseat and were seen as a commodity to be sold.
This is when i first started hearing about Reddit. It started off as ridicule and jokes. "Everything on reddit is just a repost of what was on digg yesterday" and much of that was true, but more and more users started checking it out. It didn't look as nice back then, (similar to how Voat looks like compared to Reddit), and it seemed like an exact clone. I didn't think i would ever start using reddit... or so i thought.
Slowly, the numbers of people upvoting and downvoting content started to dwindle. The amount of new content was slowing down to the point where i found myself on page 20 having read every single post. The tipping point for me though, was whenever i said anything bad about Digg, or criticize the mistakes the site was doing, my comments would get deleted. Here i was trying to give these people a clue that they are killing their website, and they would censore me as if saying "We're too big to fail peasant. get back in line". The front page became nothing but ads, and the community was dead or dying.
I didn't understand Reddit at first. Everything seemed strange and different, and yet oddly the same. There were things called "Subreddits" and i could create my own. I had no idea what any of it meant. The content and the community however was like finding all my old friends. Sharing in the same jokes, posting similar content and it was very very active. When i finally understood that subreddits gave you the ability to have multiple front pages, i was sold! I could customize the website to my own needs and enjoyment. it was amazing.
Its been 3-4 years since then, I even donated to the website every month to help improve it and cover costs, however now it seems as though Reddit wants to clone Digg yet again. The new CEO is censoring subreddits, taking out anything she finds offensive. Mods delete comments if they disagree with you, quote arbitrary rules like "Low content comment", regardless of how many people responded to you and carried on the discussion(political threads especially). The mods will go so far and delete your comment because it's of a different political belief than theirs. You present a fact with sources, and your comment gets deleted for hurting their image.
Not only did reddit's CEO take down those subs, but she did it specifically to make the site more marketable, and has told the community that reddit doesn't stand for free speech. Well I say i don't stand with someone who doesn't stand with free speech.
I cancelled my automatic donations, and have started looking for the next thing.
Well Voat, are you the next thing?
Does Voat stand behind a community of free speech, censoring and deleting only illegal content, and letting the shitty subs exist in their own isolated groups?
Does Voat believe that the community is a democracy, and if the people like your comments they stay, without arbitrary comment deletion?
Does Voat plan on using their community as something to be sold? Or does it believe that the people will support the website?
If you want to make the website profitable, simply allow banner ads on the sides. Each subvoat(?) can have it's own targeted advertisements. /v/Gaming will have ads on the latest video games, /v/movies will have the latest blockbusters, or really whatever the advertisers feel like throwing their money. Support your community, and this kind of advertising is 100% acceptable to me.
What past website have fail to understand, is that what they had attracted the people, and its the people who attracted the advertising, so the websites changed what they had to better attract the investors. If the website attracts people, it already attracts advertising and doesn't need to change.
Attract the people Voat. Give us what we want and you will destroy reddit and take all of it's business. I've seen it happen before. It can happen again. Reddit is not too big to fail.