Steve Huffman

July 11, 2015

I am Steve Huffman, the new CEO of reddit. AMA.

Hey Everyone, I'm Steve, aka spez, the new CEO around here. For those of you who don't know me, I founded reddit ten years ago with my college roommate Alexis, aka kn0thing. Since then, reddit has grown far larger than my wildest dreams. I'm so proud of what it's become, and I'm very excited to be back.

I know we have a lot of work to do. One of my first priorities is to re-establish a relationship with the community. This is the first of what I expect will be many AMAs (I'm thinking I'll do these weekly).

My proof: it's me!

edit: I'm done for now. Time to get back to work. Thanks for all the questions!

How would you define the current culture at Reddit? Is it in line with where you want it to be?

Too soon to tell. I've only got to meet the team for the first time late in the afternoon, and I still haven't had a chance to meet everyone, let alone have substantive discussions.

The vibe around the office is pretty fun, but the reddit team has been through a lot the past while. I hope I can bring some stability.

yeah, because he didnt provide proof. LOL.

I'm not sure how I can provide more proof other than marking it as admin.

So, you're my new boss. When are you planning to stop by "The Annex"?

In case you don't know, The Annex is the coolest, hippest, most jovial corner of the reddit offices. We have candied treats, art, pigeons, and even a sister city (flint, michigan)!

I was just over there, in fact! It's well decorated for sure.

I was born in Michigan. I ran the Crim race in Flight years ago.

Do you plan on bringing back the subreddits Pao got rid of? Like /r/fatpeoplehate

Edit: I'm not saying that I liked FPH. In fact, I hated it. I'm asking this question because of the controversy its deletion caused

Edit 2: I now understand why it was deleted. I had no idea that people from FPH were attacking fellow Redditors and people in other subreddits.

Edit 3: My most upvoted post is about fatpeoplehate. Thanks Reddit.

Unlikely. Creating a clear content policy is another of my immediate priorities. We will make it very clear what is and is not acceptable behavior on reddit. This is still a work in progress, but our thinking is along these lines:

In my opinion, FPH crossed a line in that it was specifically hostile towards other redditors. Harassment and bullying effect people dramatically in the real world, and we want reddit to be a place where our users feel safe, or at least don't feel threatened.

Disclaimer: this is still a work in progress, but I think you can see where my thinking is heading.

Update: I mention this below, but it's worth repeating. We want to keep reddit as open as possible, and when we have to ban something, I want it to be very transparent that it was done and what our reasoning was.

So when is /r/coontown going away?

I think our approach to subreddits like that will be different. The content there is reprehensible, as I'm sure any reasonable person would agree, but if it were appropriately quarantined, it would not have a negative impact on other specific individuals in the same way FPH does.

I want to hear more discussion on the topic. I'm open to other arguments.

I want to be very clear: I don't want to ever ban content. Sometimes, however, I feel we have no choice because we want to protect reddit itself.

I hope "nothing illegal" here means no doing illegal things, not no talking about illegal things. Talking about drug use openly is good for harm reduction, and saves lives.


Nothing illegal

What does that mean for /r/trees?

edit: Yes, I'm aware talking about things isn't illegal, but people post pictures of themselves smoking pot, and I highly doubt everyone is in a state/country where it's legal, or above the legal age to smoke it there.

I mean illegal content. Stuff that would get us sued, etc.

if it were appropriately quarantined, it would not have a negative impact on other specific individuals in the same way FPH does.

Can you explain that part a little further? Is the only difference that FPH left its subreddit to harass people and coontown does not, or are you saying the very content of FPH had a more negative impact for the targeted group than what's posted at coontown?

Where FPH crossed the line, which I admit we're still defining, is that they actively were attacking other redditors. If they stayed within their community, I don't think we'd be having this conversation.

  • Nothing that undermines the integrity of reddit

This is way too vague. Are you referring to the integrity of Reddit, inc., the application, or reddit as an abstract? Does a website even have morality? Who decides what is integral?

Not trying to be combative, it just seems kind of like a catch-all for anything some guy in the office doesn't like. In the official policy I hope this is way more specific.


So what is the actual deciding factor here?

Will a subreddit be banned for harassment even if it has a strict policy against it and mods are actively removing any public posts advocating it?

It doesn't seem fair to limit the free speech on this site of a majority of users of a subreddit, just because of a small minority that the mods are actively fighting.

reddit the company intervening will always be a last resort, but from a philosophical point of view (we build the platform, you populate it), and a practical point of view (we ain't got time for that).

Since I am sure this question will be asked 100 times during the course of this AMA, let me be the first:

Will you be bringing Victoria back on board?

No. I know she was well-loved by many moderators, and I'm very sorry at how everything played out. It could have been handled much better.

However, she was let go for specific reasons, which I obviously will not share, and we will stand by that decision.

What we will absolutely do is make sure we have dedicate people internally to help manage the relationships between moderators and guests on reddit. I'm still getting to know everyone here, and I expect this will be an ongoing conversation between you all and I.

Will moderators be given notice if a big change like this is to happen again? /r/IAmA was crippled by the lack of notice, and I wouldn't want similar things to happen to subreddits I mod like /r/AskReddit.

I appreciate the admins responding, at least after the fact, and letting us moderators know we've been heard.

What we will absolutely do is make sure we have dedicate people internally to help manage the relationships between moderators and guests on reddit.

By this I'm hoping that you mean there will be more than just one admin dedicated to moderators. There's no way one person can take care of problems moderators are having (ranging from child porn to people trying to harm others to spammers), every day, all day.

It's a HUGE job. I get that. You need support from both our community managers, and I intend and building out a team here, and our product team because I can see very well the tools have not been updated in a very long time. I will build out these teams as fast as I can, but it won't happen overnight.

Whats stopping the admins from firing the mods of the huge subbreddits and replacing them with people that will toe the company line?

Technically? Nothing. But, an adversarial relationship with the mods is the opposite of what we want.

Will any of the policy changes under Ellen Pao actually be reverted or was she really just used as a scapegoat for these unpopular changes that would have happened anyway?

We will reconsider all our policies from first principles. I don't know all of the changes that were made under Ellen's tenure. I'm mostly still getting to know everyone here.

No, Ellen was not used as a scapegoat. She stepped up during a time of crisis for reddit, for which we were thankful. Things didn't go smoothly, for sure, but I will do my best to guide us forward.

She can't surely have been solely responsible for all the negatively perceived changes?

It's hard to imagine she was, but responsibility flows up. I'm sure there will be times I've got to take it on the chin as well. Part of the gig.

When were you asked if you wanted to be the new CEO?

The first time I was asked was way back when Yishan left. At the time I was too focused on Hipmunk to seriously consider it. Since then, Hipmunk has grown into a really nice, stable company-- we've hired very well-- and they can move forward without my complete attention (I will still be acting as CTO for the time being).

The past week was super hectic. A week ago, I didn't know I would be here!

Do you plan on reviewing your policy on shadowbanning users? From my understanding this was first implemented as a measure to prevent spam bots from knowing they have been silenced, but has since been expanded to everyday users without there knowledge. Is there any new system in the works were a user being banned would be let know that they

1) have been banned

2)what the ban was for

Absolutely. Shadowbanning is for spammers. I created it ten years ago when we were in an arms race with automated spambots, which still attack us constantly. I want it to be as difficult as possible for the spammers to know when they've been caught so that they don't improve their tech.

Real users should never be shadowbanned. Ever. If we, or moderators, ban them, or specific content, it will be obvious that it's happened and there will be a mechanism for appealing the decision.

If we, or moderators, ban them, or specific content, it will be obvious that it's happened and there will be a mechanism for appealing the decision.

Would you agree that real users have a right to know when their post or comment has been removed?

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.

<rant>Also, I hate seeing [deleted] all over the place. I don't care if it was deleted, I want to read it anyway.</rant>

What about subs like r/askhistorians where they have high standards? The deletions in that sub serve to get rid of unsourced, off-topic, and just plain wrong answers; and the mods there are really upfront about why posts are deleted and what rules they break.

I think mods should be able to moderate, but there should also be some mechanism to see what was removed. It doesn't have to be easy, but it shouldn't be impossible.

the board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining reddit’s core principles.

Can you explain this statement from Pao in her resignation post? Does the board expect you to attain a level of growth that requires violation of reddit's core principles?

Board relationships need to be managed. The message they will be hearing from me loudly and often is that we need to build out the team here if we want to get anything done. All the planning in the world is useless if we can't execute.

In other words, yes, but I'm stalling for time.

Stalling isn't the right word, but of course the board wants to see growth. I want to see growth too. We're not going to see much growth without serious product efforts, and we're not going to get serious product efforts without more resources. Fortunately, I have the ability to get those resources, so that's what I'll do.

Do you think you'll end the no negotiation policy?

No. We use it at Hipmunk and it works really well. A key component is paying the market rate. I don't like to start relationships with a negotiation. If we make our best offer first, we don't have to worry about it.

Are there any specific plans for the Alien Blue app that you can share?

I have lots of ideas! But, I'm sad to say, I don't want to publicize them here until I've got more support internally. It's shitty if you're on a product/dev team to come into work and find everything's been upended without any of your input.

I'm the current owner of /r/SteveHuffman. Any ideas with what I should do with it? I'm lost right now.

Don't forget to crosspost with /r/cannibals. Similar audiences.

Are /u/kickme444 and Reddit Gifts coming back? Please tell me Christmas isn't dead.

Is Reddit Gifts gone? I'm pretty sure it is not, and we have no plans to shut it down.

As for Dan, I didn't work with him, and really don't know much of that situation.

So, do you plan on to walk in the path set by Pao, or will you try to revert her plans and go to the old - "we support the freedom of speech" which was the reddit's stance few years ago and is one of the reasons why people signed the petition?

I mean FPH was one sad shit of a place, but shadowbanning and mass deleting of comments by admins is not nice.

We want to support as free and open a discussion is possible. reddit is a platform for having some of the most authentic conversations online, if not in the world, and I don't want to undermine that.

Shadowbanning sucks. Moderators lack tools right now to effectively moderate. Sometimes people do need to be banned, but it shouldn't be a secret, and there should be an appeals process to undo it.

Please don't do them weekly. Maybe monthly or bi-monthly.

What's your plan on policing vote-brigading in the future? Do you have some way to automatically track vote brigades and people taking part in them?

Please don't do them weekly. Maybe monthly or bi-monthly.

Ok, you're the boss, Xephryon.

Do you have some way to automatically track vote brigades and people taking part in them?

Yeah, we do. It's existed for a long time. Maybe it broke after I left. We used to put a lot of effort into identifying large groups of people who were trying to undermine the community.

You said elsewhere you're against shadowbanning of real users. Given that brigading is currently mostly countered by shadowbans, how do you plan to punish them instead?

Undermine them with technology, of course.

There's been a lot of talk recently about the need to further monetize reddit in order to ensure it's financial longevity - what kinds of steps do you think need to be taken? Do you have any ideas or goals about how to approach this?

reddit has a lot of cash. Monetization isn't a short-term concern of ours. Yes, we will continue to experiment with different efforts so that when time is right we know what works and what does not.

For those not aware, /r/AMD was closed down by the top mod abruptly without any warning. This forced users of that subreddit to move to /r/AdvancedMicroDevices.

As for a potential answer if spez doesn't reply....reddit hasn't intervened in subreddit's closing down and such when a mod does it on their own. If the AMD mod had done something fishy then it could be opened (like /r/wow was).

Thinking in realtime: we probably don't want to undo a mod's decision, but if they leave forever, we can re-claim it.

What do you plan on doing about censorship on reddit?

An example would be /r/News censoring topics on TPP

They can ban what they want, but I'd like to make it transparent what was actually banned. Some sort of "garbage can" or something.

Is there any chance you are bringing back number of upvotes and downvotes displayed separately?

This really matters especially in smaller subs, comment can be just not interesting or very controversial.

Will definitely consider it. I want to hear the reasoning for why they were removed in the first place. Perhaps there is a better solution to that problem.

Who is your daddy and what does he do?

My father was an engineer at GM for 30 years.

My step-father was a heavy hitter in the business world for a while, most publicly he was the CMO of Unisys, but that place is a cluster, so he left.

I have a fear that you have been gone from reddit too long and could be out of touch with the average redditor today. How do we know you are going to make the right choices as your time as CEO?

I haven't been posting much, but I have been reading reddit pretty much every day for ten years, which is more than you can say.

Are you threatened by Voat? Do you see it as reddit alternative as reddit was Digg alternative?

reddit had better technology than Digg. I don't think Voat has better technology than reddit.

going to copy and paste my questions from the AMA Request thread:

Not ignoring you, but I think I've answered all of these in this thread.

Hey Steve, glad to have you back.

Will you be looking into the recent banning of subreddits that caused much of this drama? And why those that were banned didn't include the obvious candidates like /r/SRS, who are known to dox and brigade?

I want to get the Content Policy written first so everyone knows what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

Finally caught one of these right when it started!

What are your plans for an official Reddit Android app?

I think we need more official Reddit Android Developers.

Hi Steve!

So, AFAIK you'll remain the CTO of Hipmunk. Do you think that you can realistically manage two jobs of this caliber at the same time? How will you arrange that?

It's going to take a little time to find the right balance. Hipmunk is in a stable place, and most of my value is provided in a few key meetings every week, which I will still be attending. Also, they're five blocks away, so I can go over there whenever I need.

What is your view on reddit's employees negotiating their salary?

What are your views on "offensive" subreddits?

What are your views on Donald Trump?

What is your view on reddit's employees negotiating their salary?

Hipmunk has this policy as well, and it works well for us. It only works if you pay the market rate, which we will. We're not in the business of getting good people for as cheap as possible.

Hey Steve! Weekly, or at least semi-regular, AMAs are an awesome idea. Maybe different admin teams at reddit could step up and do some too!

Any thoughts on how reddit should prioritize the needs of brand new users (who may find various aspects of reddit's design complicated and confusing) with the needs of core users and mods (who reddit relies on for its great content and dankest of memes)?

Really good question, thank you.

I think the new user / core user dichotomy is the biggest product challenge we fact right now. Solve it, and we are unstoppable. A vague answer, I know, but this is one of the big things on my mind.

What's your viewpoint on the life, death, and legacy of Aaron Swartz? Any of his philosophy going to be present in Reddit going forward?

Aaron and I were very close for about five months. During that time we ported reddit from Lisp to Python and collaborated on a lot of ideas that are still important to reddit today.

We had a falling out around the time reddit sold, and I regret to say I didn't really know him when he passed. That whole situation was ugly, and the world is worse for it.

Hi Steve nice to meet you. Would you rather fight 1000 duck sized horses, or one horse sized duck? Thank you.

1000 duck sized horses. Since they can't climb stairs, you can easily get away from them long enough to figure out how to drown them.

Steve, I'm a huge fan and I'd like to ask what your thoughts are about reddit being a potential game changer in politics and pop culture. Do you believe that the reddit community has an ability to sway public opinion and policy? Did you intend this when you created reddit?

Yes, we have an amazing opportunity to change the world.

No, I just didn't want to look stupid in front of my parents.

Is it okay if we use Reddit gold as our Greek Currency ?

Would be about as effective...

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Steve Huffman conducted on Reddit on 2015-07-11. The Reddit AMA can be found here.