Sunday, February 11, 2007

reddit rockstars

Reddit was mentioned in a recent WSJ piece that featured profiles on a number of "The Wizards of Buzz," top submitters on a variety of social news sites. Although the folks at Time had big plans for trumpeting the people really driving this Internet movement (hint: it's not the alien-artists or the CEOs in the photo-ops) they didn't include any interviews with the actual user themselves. To their credit and with our full encouragement, both of the WSJ reporters on this story were very interested in profiling a sample of the users on these sites. On that note, a big congrats to anonymgrl, fedquip, and idyll. Sadly, I think my irony-meter broke after seeing your profiles in the WSJ.

For our part, the interview was pretty routine, but past lessons learned kept coming back. You always want to bring up those fundamental differences: "Well, reddit is a bit different, the "hot" page has links that are constantly rising and falling, so it's not as simple as just getting enough votes for a link to automatically appear at the top of the front page." While also answering questions: "Remove the stats page? We don't have any plans to. In fact, we added some extra daily awards a little while back and we're hoping to improve that whole page in the near future." And of course, explaining the site's origin: "Did we have a vision for the site? Not really. We just started, we didn't know what it would look like, we were just aiming to build a site where people could find all the newest and most interesting content online -- we didn't even have the up/down arrows when we started."

Funny, they never ask about the alien. Oh well. I'm still waiting for the inevitable "didn't you guys just steal that change-the-logo-idea from Google?"

But one you've hung up the phone, you're replaying everything you said and trying your best to be sure you remembered everything you wanted to say and avoided saying anything you didn't.

Then the article prints, you hold your breath and skim through...

On Reddit, one of the most influential users is 12-year-old Adam Fuhrer. At his desktop computer in his parents' home in the quiet northern Toronto suburb of Thornhill, Mr. Fuhrer monitors more than 100 Web sites looking for news on criminal justice, software releases -- and the Toronto Maple Leafs, his favorite hockey team. When Microsoft launched its Vista operating system this year, he submitted stories that discussed its security flaws and price tag, which attracted approving votes from more than 500 users.

Besides an electric guitar and an iPod, "my favorite thing in the whole world is my computer," says Mr. Fuhrer, who has lately also been studying for his bar mitzvah in June. In spite of a content filter his parents use to block him from viewing certain sites (including YouTube), he has managed to consistently make it onto the list of Reddit's highest performers.

Well, "influential" is probably not the right word, since all of his submissions have just as equal of a chance as all the others being voted on by the crowds (the wise ones, right?), but it sure does make the weekend WSJ reader take a slightly larger gulp of coffee. A 12-year-old is one of the most influential users on reddit? Even Michael Arrington got caught up in the ecstasy of "twelve year olds are now helping to define what news is".

Considering how impressive the quality and diversity of reddit's content [usually] is, maybe it's a 12-year-old wunderkind? Either way, it's the community that is ultimately responsible for promoting the best content. Or maybe reddit really is a community of 12-year-olds... or for all we know, dogs... or 12-year-old dogs...

Regardless, with this model, the readers are defining what news is -- precocious 12-year-olds are just helping to find it, along with everyone else.

Congrats to you, too, Adam. I had to laugh a bit when I saw the artist's rendering of what I can only suppose is "you" influencing the three enthralled faces pressed against their single monitor. I doubt you look anything close to that maniacal.


John said...

Didn't you guys just steal that change-the-logo-idea from Google?

Nik Martin said...

Does Reddit require parent's permission if users are < 13 when they sign up like most other sites?

Mark said...


reddit doesn't collect personal information, so they are COPPA compliant.

kn0thing said...

Gah! John, I don't know what you're talking about... glances nervously from side to side.

As for the legal questions, I am no lawyer, and I don't play one on the Internet.

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