Reddit looks like a mess to the uninitiated. Links to email, forums for comments, points, upvotes, downvotes. At best, posts appear entirely random, at worst, contextless.

Yet spend some quality time with “The Internet’s Front Page,” and you’ll find it’s a vital resource, a self-correcting exchange of ideas that’s almost impervious to advertisers.

Reddit is, to put it simply, a message board in which users post links. What sets it apart from a real-time information network such as Twitter is that the content source is curated by the user. 

Quality items are “upvoted” and those deemed unworthy are “downvoted.”

 It decides the location of a post on the site, and articles that reach the front page are viewed by hundreds of thousands of people (therefore, sending traffic loads to the linked website).

Digg popularized this type of voting system which was launched in late 2004. Around 2005, Reddit came soon after and the two became competitive. But what really sets Reddit apart to this day is the culture. 

It is unparalleled the type of content that is respected, the dialogue around it and the dedication with which users search and build on important subjects. As such, generally, the front page is filled with things that will make you think, laugh loud, and inspire you to dig a little deeper.

If your home town is Facebook, then think of Reddit as a foreign country. You don’t speak the language, the rituals are different and you often don’t know what’s happening.

That’s all right. Just spend some time there. Check the site at least once a day — more, if you really want to see how content is going. Not just visit the outbound links, but dive into the threads for feedback to see what people are talking about.

Reddit is completely self-referential. If you see something posted that makes no sense, it’s probably referring to an aspect of Reddit culture (a previous article, a meme— something that’s famous from the site). Often, you can pin down the point of reference in the comments. Many users seeking clarity will upvote posters explaining things, thereby taking the interest to the top of the thread.

Reviews are definitive. They’re arguably the site’s most critical (and often, most entertaining) component. Just because something on the front page has been upvoted doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. If it’s been there long enough, the top comment is likely to be a user quoting conflicting sources or challenging the validity of the article at issue.

So the world will control itself in ways that Facebook and Twitter can’t. The most important debate in theory still floats down to the surface (more on this below).

You’re not going to figure it out on day one. But if you check back frequently you will start absorbing the culture. You will start seeing what’s important and what’s questionable. And as you drill down into verticals that you (subreddits) are interested in, you will find passionate communities engaged in a discussion that you will not find elsewhere.

Reddit Karma is an aggregation of “goodwill” you earn when your posts or comments are upvoted by users. It doesn’t give you any overt influence, and for amazing prizes, this can’t be cashed in, but a healthy amount of Karma on your profile encourages others to add value to the community.

Karma has two types: one for links and one for comments. Both are displayed in the upper right-hand corner on your user profile, and are to be worn as honor badges.

Dishonest posts or comments on Reddit don’t last long. The group is extremely skeptical about advertisers and is adamant about spam-police. Any such operation is quickly removed from view. Although brands are welcomed on Facebook and Twitter to communicate with users, the Reddit community is generally uninterested in advertisers intruding into the discussion.

There are however rare exceptions. Quite smart advertisers found a way into Reddit by creating content that is of genuine interest to the group.