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updated 5/1/2013 4:45:48 PM ET 2013-05-01T20:45:48

Reddit may look daunting, but it's pretty simple to navigate once you've tailored it to your preferences. However, you'll want to avoid some common missteps.

Is Reddit just for geeky guys with nothing better to do? Absolutely not. Reddit can be an unvarnished source for news and provide a daily dose of entertainment, but you'll need to understand how it works if you want to get the most out of it and avoid some common pitfalls.

For those concerned about privacy, there's no real-name requirement as there is for Facebook and Google+. In fact, you don't even have to login to use Reddit.

"I think the first thing everyone really needs to understand about Reddit is that it's not just a bunch of geeks and random website links (although there are a lot of geeks, myself included)," avid Redditor and graphic designer Darel Parker told TechNewsDaily. "What makes Reddit special is the truly social nature of the site."

Reddit users determine what shows up on Reddit —  the 52nd most-visited site in the United States. They "upvote" or "downvote" articles, and those with the most upvotes rise to the top. What's known as the front page of Reddit is a listing of the top posts across Reddit categories, which are called subreddits. Each subreddit consists of links from other sites that Redditors want to share.

The listings are ordered based on the number of users' upvotes and downvotes. (You must log in to vote.) When you see a link at the top of a Reddit page, you know it's there because many users thought it was interesting.

A few rules

While there is no formal review team, Reddit does have volunteer administrators and moderators who keep an eye on what goes up, and will remove posts if they break Reddit's rules. For instance, during the manhunt for the Boston bombers, moderators for the live updates removed comments that included personal information about suspects (a long-standing Reddit taboo) and street names where police were operating. However, in the flurry of posts — 3,000 or so in 10 minutes — some of that info did get through. [See also  Reddiquette, addional guidelines for users].

Posts may also be removed if found in the wrong place. Take the two subreddits "/r/news" and "/r/inthenews." The former is for only straight news, while the latter is opinion about the news.

Reddit is much more than news. Here's where most Internet memes get their start, such as "Annoying Facebook Girl" — which refers to the stereotype of obnoxious Facebook users. Keep in mind there's a lot of questionable humor that may include foul language. However, there are also G-rated subreddits — try "/r/aww" for photos and videos of puppies, bunnies and other cute animals — where NSFW material is prohibited. [See also:  TIL: A Reddit Dictionary ]

Ready to get started?

If you create an account, you will be able to vote and comment. You'll also be able to edit your subreddits, which means you'll see top posts on your front page from the subreddits you selected.

  1. To create an account, all you need is a user name and password. You may submit a backup email in case you forget your login credentials, but this is optional.
  2. Once you have logged in, click on the "My Subreddits" link in the upper lefthand corner of the page. Here you may add and delete subreddits. (By default,  Reddit  has designated its most popular subreddits, including Advice Animals, Aww, News, Politics and Technology.
  3. Each listing includes a title that links to the original website, when it was posted and by whom, as well as the associated subreddit. You'll see the number of comments and can click this link to read them. You may also share via email (Reddit doesn't allow one-click sharing to other social media sites.)
  4. To participate, you may upvote or downvote a post by clicking on the arrows next to the listing. You may also add a comment.

A warning

One last thing to keep in mind: Redditors can be ruthless, so it's a good idea to know your facts before you post a comment. Further, don't try to play Reddit — there's no fooling a Redditor.

"Promoting a new product, book, movie or whatever? Be upfront about it," Parker said. "Reddit is notoriously efficient at outing scammers and guerrilla marketers."

And punishment has been swift.

"It could mean thousands of bad reviews for a book  on Amazon," Parker said.

But don't be afraid to give Reddit a try. There aren't many older folks there, but this could soon change. One of the top trending questions on /r/askreddit is: "To the redditors 50 and over, as far back as your memory can take you, what did you think the year 2000 would be like?"

Follow Leslie Meredith  @lesliemeredith. Follow us  @TechNewsDaily, on  Facebook  or on  Google+.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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