Tuesday, January 27, 2009


On the street interview with the charming Joanne Colan of Rocketboom.

And you can learn just how much I hate spammers thanks to URLesque.

Monday, January 26, 2009

roflthing rocked my world

photo credit: placenamehere

Oh yes, ROFLThing: New York was fantastic. I'll have a proper recap in the days to come -- with my keynote presentation. ROFLgoers have asked for the slides, though I'm not sure it'll be the same without voiceover (cue the video link).

I can't thank the ROFLCon masters enough for inviting me to co-host and get the chance to unleash my latest breadpig project, ROFLDNA (more on that to come, too).

New York Times writer (and fellow UVA grad), Jenna Wortham, rocked the conference for the Bits Blog:
Also in attendance were several members of the geek elite, including Jay Maynard, better known by his nickname Tron Guy for a spandex bodysuit rigged with blue lights to resemble the main character from the 1982 Disney movie “Tron”; Rex Sorgatz, a well-known blogger; and Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of social bookmarking news site Reddit.
Being mentioned in the same sentence as Jay Maynard is enough to make someone feel like a geek elite -- Jenna went and put icing on that florescent TRONcake.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

online technology and the white house - together at last!

A little while ago, I had a nice phone interview with the National Journal about the role of technology within the Obama White House. My synthesized thoughts follow those of Lawrence Lessig, a humbling position indeed.

Alexis Ohanian is one of the founders of the popular site Reddit.com, which launched in 2005 and is used by thousands to rank which news stories appear on the site's home page. Based on what he's seen with Reddit, he said, most Americans won't bother going to a site to rank projects to fund, and of those people who do visit, most won't contribute a vote. What will remain, he hopes, are people who consider themselves informed enough to cast a vote. For his part, Ohanian takes transparency a step further, dreaming of a day when the Internal Revenue Service lets Americans log in to see how their individual tax dollars are being spent and then lets them redirect their money.
Reading it this way, I felt compelled to clarify what appears to be a rather bleak forecast for participation.
Based on what he's seen with Reddit, he said, most Americans won't bother going to a site to rank projects to fund, and of those people who do visit, most won't contribute a vote.
My belief that most Americans wouldn't bother going is a combination of apathy (something I believe these technologies would ameliorate) and that the majority of reddit traffic is not logged in -- and thus non-voting.

That said, the motivations for visiting reddit.com and this policy site are quite different. The majority of redditors just want to be informed or entertained and needn't affect the rankings. Whereas I'd envision a significant portion of traffic to this site would be visitors arriving to make an impact. And you can be sure a number will be driven by email blasts from interest groups.

Ultimately, the more transparency that can be brought to the process, the better. Lessig is right to point out that replacing the decision-making process with ill-informed citizens would have a negative impact. But this technology can be just the thing to make citizens better informed about their government. If we can get up to the minute stock quotes and news about Apple, we ought to demand (and get) the same from our representatives.

After all, we're paying for them -- let's get our money's worth.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

new u.s. president sworn in, reddit keeps chugging along

LATimes blogger, Mark Milian, emailed in the run up to President Obama's (haven't gotten tired of saying that yet) inauguration. He was curious to know what kind of traffic surge we expected and if there was anything we were doing to prepare. While we take great pride in our 'reddit is down' messages, we didn't expect to need them -- thankfully, I didn't eat my words:

And Reddit is equally unworried.

"Actually, we're expecting a bigger traffic spike on Wednesday as people come back to their computers loaded with stories to share from the day before," Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian said in an e-mail. "Granted, there will be plenty of people watching the inauguration with a computer on their lap, but it won't be a surge significant enough to affect us."

But Reddit has thrown together a new "site is down" image (pictured at left) in case any problems arise.
Yes, I did leak it. And I'm not ashamed of it. But I'm even happier we didn't need to use it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

businessweek doesn't want you to feel stupid for not knowing about reddit

Steve McKee wrote a piece for BusinessWeek explaining Why Social Media Is Worth Small Business Owners' Time. Although I'm not entirely convinced social media is really worth small business owners' time, I enjoyed the zen-like opening to his argument:

The first thing I want to encourage you to do is relax. Take a deep breath and release that tightness in your chest. This column isn't about making you feel stupid for not knowing what Reddit.com is, or chastising you for not having three extra hours a day to spend tweeting and blogging. I simply want to encourage you to get started. (For background on social media, check out this story.)
But the implication that not knowing what reddit.com is grounds for making someone feel stupid is a nice touch. Evidently, the alien is worth knowing about. Fear not, reddit-virgins, we'll welcome you with open arms -- probably. And if you do find yourself at odds with various communities, you can always just create your own reddit.

Steve's tone is much gentler than the approach one redditor took when leaving a note on the car of a digg fan. Thanks for that, Steve. Although you could still be the person responsible for said note...

Friday, January 09, 2009

thanks to a virus, i create the greatest advertisement in reddit history

At the moment, it has 175 points on ads.reddit. We've had voting on reddit ads for a long time now and even my favorite house ads never got more than a dozen points. Until now.

It also managed to sell a number of bobbleheads, which is nice.

If this ad doesn't resonate with you, that's OK.

If you can't stand being on the outside of an inside joke, read this -- but be warned, once you go reddit...

... still trying to come up with a rhyme for that.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

cnet's don reisinger says reddit "leads the pack" - is it the alpha dog of your social network portfolio, too?

Don Reisinger of cnet offers some tips for downsizing your network portfolio. We only need to be subscribed to so many dot-coms with silly names, right?

Well not only does he nail the difference between social bookmarking (e.g., delicious) and news aggregation, he also happens to think reddit is "the keeper."

Trying to find the ideal news aggregator on the Web can be difficult. Depending on your definition, there's conceivably hundreds of services that package the best stories into one page. But it's the "social" news aggregation services, like Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon that lead the pack. And although Digg is the most popular service in that grouping, I'm a firm believer that Reddit deserves to stay in your portfolio as your chosen news aggregation service.

Normally, I would pick the social site that offers the largest and most engaged community. But when it comes to news aggregation sites, Digg simply doesn't cut it. Sure, it's the biggest and arguably the most important to content sites, but that alone doesn't make it the best. Instead, I find Reddit's site design, while simple and ugly to some, incredibly useful and designed to help users find the best stories as quickly as possible without gaudy extras. But the most important differentiating factor working to Reddit's advantage is its community. It might be smaller than Digg's, but generally, the comments on each story are more edifying and lack the invective that has become a staple for Kevin Rose's brainchild.

Reddit may not be the biggest, its site design may be odd, and its community not as rabid, but in terms of providing interesting stories on a slew of topics without as much "gaming," it leads the pack and deserves to be in your social network portfolio.
Needless to say, team reddit is pretty pleased with the review. The quote our community manager, Erik: Smaller, odd, rabies-free, and pack leader. reddit = Cesar Millan!

reliving fond memories of a LOLpresentation and hoping i'll get invited to speak again

Dreams really do come true. I gave my first presentation entirely with LOLcat photos along with three other guys who probably spend too much time on the Internet. The conference was the Magazine Publisher's Association's 4th Digital Conference held in New York last February and I haven't had a PowerPoint experience quite like it since. The MPA audience was quite receptive to the silly cat photos with pidgin English captions.

Not only did they laugh, they apparently took away quite a bit, and even produced this recap that I hadn't noticed until just now. Bonus points for including my B-more Sun shoutout.

Alexis Ohanian described reddit as a site that allows users to rate what stories are worth keeping around and what stories should be sent to the lower parts of the list. Ohanian stressed that online, “great, fresh content is king.” It’s a world where a story from the Baltimore Sun could be the more important story to read than the one in The New York Times.

Readers are fickle,” he said, which can be a bad thing since users are only one click away from leaving a site. But it can also be a good thing if the site is providing good, fresh content—people won’t leave right away and a connection could be born. “Once it gets online, brand is less important. It’s still important but content is king.”

Ohanian encouraged magazine publishers to build up their online content in order to take advantage of those readers who are fanatics about the publication. They can read the print edition every day for the month and net the publisher nothing, or they can visit the site every day and net the publisher some gain.

He also encouraged publishers to get involved with user-generated content. “They’ll do a lot of work for you and for free,” he said. One example he used was an editor posting a question and readers posting their thoughts alongside other content. “It feeds itself for relatively little work,” he noted. Letting that kind of conversation occur will help build a loyal community.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

joe the peacock is mentally incontinent and why that's a good thing

Mentally Incontinent is a book by Joe Peacock and the Internet. He wrote it, they edited it. Think of it as a collection of those funny stories you read about on the Internet, only they all happened to one guy (Joe). Better yet, imagine Joe as that friend you have (or wish you had) who always has those hilarious stories he tells you over a few beers. This book reads just like that beer-fueled storytelling.

And here's the best part: he's actually a nice guy. It's like Tucker Max without all the douchecockery.

So help Joe write more books and buy a copy of Mentally Incontinent for someone you love or even just like (or yourself, if you don't like yourself, this book might change that).

Either because the economy sucks or because he's a classy guy, Joe made the book available for your reading pleasure on Google. Take a look-see.

Friday, January 02, 2009

belated happy new year, thanks to the (not)great firewall of vietnam

Fun fact: Blogger.com and all blogspot blogs are blocked in Vietnam. While this is mildly inconveniencing for the traveler, for Vietnamese, this kind of censorship must be quite frustrating -- not just because they can't read my blog. Combine Vietnam's rapid development with the growing global movement for Internet freedom and I'm certain the government will find this censorship harder and harder to maintain. And that's a great thing.

Anyway, here's a recap of reddit news from the last couple of weeks:

We continued our well-publicized love affair with Treehuger, which published its top 25 reddited stories of 2008.

There were some epic Zune pun threads on reddit thanks to an epic Zune failure. The Guardian reported on the pun-tastic behavior, as did CrunchNotes.

The LATimes found the modern hobo code traveling up the reddit front page.

And Gizmodo reported on the greatness of the Yoshimoto Cube, which bubbled up on science.reddit.