Reddit is a social news website, one which I find myself navigating to throughout the work day for an instant injection of current affairs, touching stories or even just a dose of humour. It was not announced last month that reddit was serving over one billion pageviews a month and is home to one of the friendliest and most active communities on the internet. To find out more I asked Jeremy Edberg 5½ Questions.
Jeremy is currently the Operations Manager for reddit.com. For the 10 years before reddit, he had worked as a Systems Administrator, Programmer, and Security Engineer for such companies as eBay, PayPal, and Sendmail and UC Berkeley. He graduated with a Cognitive Science degree from UC Berkeley.
Who is Jeremy Edberg and how did he end up working at my favourite web site?
I am an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. Nah, I’m not that interesting. I’m just a guy who serendipitously ended up with an awesome job. I’ve been working with computers professionally since I was 14, doing consulting and then working for the University and then a couple of full time jobs.
The way I came to work at reddit is a fun tale. I was working at eBay in 2005, when reddit was founded. I had this idea for a link sharing site where people could vote, so I google around, and came across reddit. Lamenting the fact that someone beat me to it, I started using the site. Then I found Paul Graham’s essays and startup school. On a lark, I decided I would apply for startup school, and when I got in, I called up my friend in Boston, asked if I could stay, and then booked a ticket.
When I showed up, I was invited to a pre-party. I thought the party was for everyone, but it turned out to be exclusive. I guess the invited me because I was one of the few non-college people there. At that party, I met the reddit founders, Steve and Alexis, and told them I like their stuff and want to work with them.
After they got acquired, I messaged them and congratulated them and asked when I could start. And here I am today.
Building a community is hard work and maintaining it is harder again. How important is reddit’s community and how do you engage with them?
reddit’s community is the most important thing we have. Without the community, we would be nothing. We so strongly believe this that we give away our software for free.
I engage with the community a number of ways. The biggest way is by using reddit! I participate in the community like anyone else, submitting links and comments. Another way is through our blog posts. We try share as much as we possibly can with the community, and we do this through blog posts.
A third way is through meetups. There are reddit meetups happening all the time. I try to go to as many as I can, because I love meeting redditors in person. It puts a face to work I do every day. Whenever I travel, if I can at all spare the time, I try to join or host a meetup.
How important has the upvoting system and karma been in reddit’s success? Have these features played a significant part in shaping the community’s behaviour?
For better or worse, karma has had a huge impact on reddit (although I’d say the addition of comments and self posts were bigger). Sadly, some people only do it “for the karma.” Oftentimes, this works out well for the community, because they are also contributing at the same time. Sometimes it doesn’t though, and people do things just to score points. It is a fine line to walk, and I think we are still learning the best way to walk it.
Facebook and Twitter have been adopted as business marketing strategies. Where and how does reddit fit in?
We hope that reddit gets adopted as a business strategy. We’d like to do more to help businesses reach their clients in a way that doesn’t harm the reddit community. The reddit comunity is made up of many people, including thought leaders and influencers. We’d love to find better ways for those folks and businesses to help each other.
We’ve started this process with the Iama program. Sometimes if a business has a product they thing people don’t understand, they will arrange to do a sponsored Iama post, where they answer questions of the reddit community and help them better understand the product.
reddit is known for its random acts of kindness and propelling people out of obscurity and into celebrities over night. Do you have a favourite story?
There are so many great stories, and it is the true acts of kindness that get me out of bed every morning to work on this site. The rally was an awesome experience, and helped a lot of school kids. Recently, a reddit user in Japan helped a girl in the US get in touch with her grandma after the quake, and bought her a week’s worth of supplies*. Those people have never met and didn’t know each other. That amazes me, and I feel proud to have helped facilitate that.
I don’t really have a favorite story per se. My favorite story is the overarching story of generosity and kindness throughout the site.
Most people have a book that changed their life, the way they thought or even just how they conducted business, what’s yours?
I’ll be honest, I don’t read a lot of books anymore. I’m more of a grazer when it comes to information (see why reddit is perfect for me?). I like reading non-fiction books. Freakonomics was awesome. I also really liked The Code Book. Getting Things Done by David Allen was a life changer (although I don’t follow the system 100%).
I guess I don’t really have any “life changing” books or writing. I’d say for me, reading a whole lot of information and then synthesizing that into a coherent way of life if more my style.
If you have any suggestions for the next person in the series just let me know, my Twitter username is @jonnycampbell.