Breaking the Lock on reddit Comment Sections

Locked comment sections have been a peeve of mine since the option’s inception. Though occasional legitimate uses arise, often the lock is a moderator’s lazy middle ground between deleting the post (and losing exposure for their subreddit) and actually doing the thing they volunteered to do. It is my general opinion that when a post on the front page is locked but not deleted, it stands as a monument to the failure of the moderators of that subreddit.

With that in mind, a few years ago, a post from r/science was on the front page. I can’t recall what question or comment I had, but I knew that this was the perfect (and perhaps only) place to voice it. I opened the thread, only to learn that it was locked. A few people had made a few jokes, and rather than continue the monumental task of occasionally moderating their subreddit, the mods decided that no one being allowed to say anything was the preferable decision. I was so annoyed by this that I made my own subreddit, r/CommentUnlock, a subreddit to allow the creation of surrogate threads for locked threads where conversation could continue.

While it did get a brief moment of activity when a post on r/wowthissubexists spread the word, it received very little activity other than me posting links to threads I had something or other to add to. When it did get that small degree of attention, though, the most prevalent suggestion was that I create a bot to automatically create surrogates for locked posts on the front page into r/CommentUnlock. And I finally did just that.

The main front-end function of this bot is to identify any post within the top 100 posts of /r/all and automatically create a linked thread on r/CommentUnlock. The back end, however, is where I started having fun. The bot also maintains a database of locked posts on the front page including when they were posted, when they were locked (if they were locked on the front page), and how long they lasted on the front page. With any luck this will come together into some rather interesting data.

As only a few posts are locked on the front page each day, it may take some serious time before a useful data set is accumulated. Until then, though, I am having quite a lot of fun adding features and just watching it shatter the locks on comment sections day by day.

The current state of the bot is visible on Github.

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