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Reddit's Mystery Button is Gone But its Legacy Endures

theguardian.com
April fools 2015 was probably the biggest in history in terms of online activity. Countless websites both major and minor got in on the act, we even had a go at it here (or did we?). One particularly strange addition to the pantheon of internet japes has only just left the stage though.

Reddit's contribution to the fold was an enigmatic button affixed to a 60 second timer.Every time the button was pressed, the timer would reset, but each user was only allowed to press the button once. Once a user did press it, their user icon (normally a grey circle) would change colour, depending upon whereabouts the timer was when it was pushed (or obviously just remaining greyed out if the button remained unpressed). Once the timer ran out without anyone resetting it, game over.

That's exactly what happened on Monday. Despite the best efforts of the remaining loyalists, dredging up donated accounts (any account registered before April 1 2015 was barred from pressing the button) to try and keep it alive, they couldn't stem the tide. One user even created a plugin which would automatically hit the button whether the user wanted to or not, masquerading as a colour mask for the button itself. That didn't prevail either, as the simple message: 'The Experiment is Over' appeared where the button had been at 10:15 GMT. The final tally? 1,008,316 Reddit accounts, and however many users that equates to.

Of course the psychological impact of the experiment - which has split all the users into colour coded factions - isn't going anywhere any time soon. In the little over 3 months since this all kicked off all the pressers and many of the non-pressers have moved rank and file into their respective corners of Reddit, within which a bizarre, cultist mythology has formed.


reddit.com
According to a survey on the site, 23 different factions grew out of the experiment. The largest are the non-pressers, who make up more than half of the total, with the purple group (who would have pressed it almost immediately after it reset) in second place. The two main non-presser groups are the Followers of the Shade, who just want the timer to hit zero and the Grey Hopeful, who abstained due to the theory that everyone who did would get a gold circle when the timer hit zero (they were wrong).

The third were (and are) the Knights of the Button, they were the ones who kept an eye on things towards the end of the experiment, making sure that the timer didn't hit zero by slamming it at the final moment when duty called, leading them to end up with a red circle and transcend into the bizarre Valhalla of the Redguard faction.

I could carry on but there is enough information about all these groups to write an actual, fairly comprehensive religious document and although some darker part of me seems to think that sounds fun, I am neither an insomniac nor a cocaine addict, so I think I'll leave it. What you can take a look at is the rather astounding, peer-reviewed scientific document that was published on the phenomenon.

Beyond all the cultist weirdness, some other pretty amazing things happened as a direct result of the button. A particularly heartening story involved one Reddit user who had been wondering whether or not to propose to his girlfriend, being that he didn't have the money for a ring yet. He promised himself that he would if the button timer reached zero at midnight on their anniversary (April 26th), by the time it rolled around he knew it wouldn't happen, but had also basically decided he was going to ask anyway (coin flip logic, as he refers to it), but in that moment the timer glitched and for a split second it did say zero. Long story short, she said yes and they bought the ring together.

reddit.com
It's difficult to know what can be drawn from this vast, strange experiment and perhaps Reddit will publish their own finding in the near future, but the one thing that stands out for me is just how fascinating it is when people willingly participate in things like this, esepcially the way that a vast sprawling narrative seems to develop of its own accord. It kind of reminds me of the Twitch Plays Pokemon boom from last year (which is, remarkably, still going). I'm looking forward to seeing what long term effects the button will continue to have on the Reddit community.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Reddit's Mystery Button is Gone But its Legacy Endures Reviewed by Callum Davies on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 Rating: 5

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