Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How Reddit Got Obama: “There Are Quite a Few Redditors at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”

Question No. 1: Yup, that’s really Barack Obama, taking questions over at a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything).

Question No. 2: It was really no big deal, says Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, via email:

There’s not a lot to it. I’ve gotten to know quite a few folks in the WH & Obama campaign team over the years and it was always something I brought up when I got the chance. There are quite a few redditors at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and at the campaign HQ — given the prominence of reddit, it’s an easy sell.

Questions 2A, 2B, 2C: It’s not really that easy, is it? When did you start talking about this for real? Any special conditions on this one?

Years ago, but that was being rather ambitious. It started coming up from their side over the last year or so. A little while ago we randomly get a ping saying “POTUS is doing an AMA.” Nothing different about this, except for keeping it a secret. Also, the President only has thirty minutes or so to answer questions, which we made sure they said up front, because it’s pretty reasonable given his dayjob (we can’t all spend our days reading reddit).

Next up, Romney?

Question No. 3: The Reddit site seems to be holding up okay — over on Twitter, I’m seeing some griping about the site buckling under the traffic load, but presumably the Reddit gang anticipated the surge.

Question No. 4: Obama and his team also seem to know what they’ve gotten themselves into. Reddit’s AMA format is famously unruly and free-wheeling. But so far Obama seems to be handling it just fine. After all, it’s up to him to figure out which questions he wants to answer — if he doesn’t want an uncomfortable “boxers or briefs” moment, he can control that. Not surprisingly, every answer he’s offered up so far has been studiously on-message.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle