Interview with Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian

Alexis Ohanian [kn0thing]

We had a chance to catch up with Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit (second from the left).

Alexis Ohanian [kn0thing], second from the left

Alexis now works as a Product Manager for Condé Nast, the now parent company of Reddit. This interview comes at an interesting time in the social news world, as Reddit beta changes are going live and Netscape is moving over to Propeller.com:


Thanks for your consideration of this interview for the NowSourcing blog. It’s really a pleasure.1 – How is life after the acquisition?

For me, not much has really changed. We’ve been given a great deal of autonomy an d we all have health insurance now, which is nice. In fact, whereas my job used to entail everything-not-programming — there are departments full of more talented individuals doing many of the duties a startup has to do much better than I ever could. It’s especially nice not having to do accounting anymore.

2 – Is being a product manager for Reddit different from what you thought?

Frankly, I didn’t know what a product manager was, so I didn’t think anything of it. (I’ve been quoted as calling myself a “project” manager, but I was later corrected — it should be “product.” I’m still not sure of the difference.)

3 – Isn’t it kind of weird?

“Weird” as in different? Sure.

4 – I know that Evan Williams eventually left Google when Blogger was bought out. Your thoughts?

I’m sure he had a good reason to give up all that wonderful free food.

5 – Reddit seems to have fallen out of favor with many people I speak to about social networking. People who are new seem to not be able to break in to the community, and other social networks seem to be either larger (Digg, Netscape) or faster growing (Stumbleupon).

It seems you’re using a pretty broad definition of social networking, which is fine, but we’ve always tried to avoid becoming a “social networking” site (in the “be my friend and I’ll be yours” sense of the phrase). We built Reddit to be a place to go to find new and interesting content online. If a feature wasn’t going to work toward that end, we weren’t going to implement it. For instance, I don’t think Reddit would be a much better site if users could poke one another.

I’m not sure what you mean by “break into the community.” The way we look at it, communities aren’t meant to be “broken into” — like a car, home, or my parents’ liquor cabinet. In that regard, I’m happy people are having trouble “breaking into” Reddit. Our unique front page has an inherent resistance to cheating because of the way links actually rise and fall on it; a determined group of users can’t push a story right to number 1 like on every other social news site — links have to earn a spot on Reddit’s front page by being consistently voted up over time.

Oh, and in a display of bad timing, Netscape announced the shutdown of it’s social news site just a day before I got your email. I suspect the traffic they did have was largely from users who still had netscape.com as their default homepage and thus not the right audience (and perhaps a few nostalgic Netscape Gold-ers?)

6 – You seem to have caught on to this when you sent out your survey on when Reddit jumped the shark. What advice do you have for the new Reddit user?

The only advice I have is from our user-created reddiquette (reddit-etiquette) wiki: http://reddit.com/help/reddiquette

And don’t spam. We hate spammers — Steve especially hates spammers.

7 – How is beta going? When do you think we will see the new version of Reddit stable and rolled out?

The new release is coming out in stages and going well so far (no downtime yet). I notice you blogged about yesterday’s update already; we’ve already seen a solid number of folks branching out into the new communities we’ve opened up.

8 – Who would win in a fight: the Reddit Alien, or the Google Doodle? 🙂

Depends on the Google Doodle, really. Some holidays I just don’t think they’d stand a chance, but others might be a bit more challenging. They certainly have the advantage of legacy — I’ll be the first to admit that the entire idea for changing our logo came from [their] logo, I just think I’ve taken it to excess by doing it so often and so randomly. Our mascot is from the future, though, which implies that it must survive, since it was able to travel back in time…

Ponder that one the next time you’re passing the bong.

8 Comments

  1. John

    I was about to try Hipmunk, when my friend pointed out that Kayak is superior in so many ways. Hipmunk doesn’t even have any of the helpful features that Kayak does.

    I made sure to save my friends from using the disaster that is Hipmunk!

  2. Popular Generics

    I am really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one today..

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