Ellen Pao out as Reddit CEO

As seemingly first reported by Recode, it looks like Ellen Pao, the interim CEO of Reddit, has stepped down from the CEO position today. In the backdrop of the unease of the Reddit mods and general community regarding changes to Reddit over the last several months, including the firing of former IAMA administrator Victoria Taylor, and even spawning today as a Reddit blackout day for several members of the community. Steve Huffman will be taking over as CEO for the time being. The name may seem familar as he was one of the Reddit co-founders and the original CEO for the company. This also comes off the heels of Yishan Wong who stepped down from the CEO position this last November, when the site was going through a storm of controversy regarding stolen celebrity photos.

Ellen Pao indicates that she’s got to “figure out what to do next”, and will be taking some time off.

In an interview that occurred today, Pao and the board of directors of Reddit had seemingly come to a “mutual decision” for Pao to step down as there were conflicts on the growth potential of the company. Ellen Pao indicated that “They had a more aggressive view then I did”. Questions about whether she was fired from the position have been met with overwhelming nos from both Pao herself and Reddit board member Sam Altman. As a parting statement from Altman, it was indicated on the announcements subreddit that “We are thankful for Ellen’s many contributions to reddit and the technology industry generally. She brought focus to chaos, recruited a world-class team of executives, and drove growth. She brought a face to reddit that changed perceptions, and is a pioneer for women in the tech industry. She will remain as an advisor to the board through the end of 2015. I look forward to seeing the great things she does beyond that.” So Pao will be around for a period of time even with her step down.

As for the future of Reddit, Huffman seems excited to take the reigns again by saying that “I am a huge part of Reddit, and Reddit is a huge part of me.” With moderators having trust issues with the lack of moderation tools that have been promised, and a site that has had problems turning a profit over the last several years, it will be a huge hurdle for Mr. Huffman to fill. However, Mr. Huffman indicated that “Mods, you are what makes reddit great. The reddit team, now with Steve, wants to do more for you. You deserve better moderation tools and better communication from the admins.” Hopefully, that will be backed up in the weeks/months to come.

Does this change any thoughts regarding the current the state of Reddit for you, or has the actions of the last several years shown a trend to you?

Follow Up – #TheDarkening, Reddit’s Night of Infamy

Yesterday, major activity centers for Reddit descended into an uproar when the community found out that Victoria Taylor, the Reddit community’s trusted and well-liked AMA mod, had been fired without notice and numerous default subs going private until the situation blew over.  Many more subs voluntarily went dark in solidarity with the default subs who went private, as well as to protest what they saw as a gross mishandling of affairs on the site.

Many of the default subs that were private are now back to being public, one of the first being r/History as of early morning today, along with most having explanations stating why they went dark and how they plan to proceed from here on out.  Here is a post from the mods of r/IAmA explaining their situation and indicating that a rift remains between them and Reddit leadership:

“..We have taken the day to try to understand how Reddit will seek to replace Victoria, and have unfortunately come to the conclusion that they do not have a plan that we can put our trust in. The admins have refused to provide essential information about arranging and scheduling AMAs with their new ‘team.’ This does not bode well for future communication between us, and we cannot be sure that everything is being arranged honestly and in accordance with our rules. The information we have requested is essential to ensure that money is not changing hands at any point in the procedure which is necessary for /r/IAmA to remain equal and egalitarian. As a result, we will no longer be working with the admins to put together AMAs..”

Alexis Ohanian, known on the site as “u/kn0thing”, posted this apology and subsequent explanation:

“First, I’m sorry for how we handled communicating change to the AMA team this morning. I take responsibility for that. We should have made a post to r/DefaultMods announcing the transition and contacted the affected mods teams right after it happened and clearly articulated how there would not be a disruption with scheduled AMAs and those communications would now happen via AMA@reddit.com as we find a full-time replacement.”

“We will continue to dedicate resources to AMAs specifically to help manage the workload. Moderating AMAs are a uniquely heavy burden because it requires a lot of coordination between the external guests and the moderators, and Reddit will always be involved. Our process won’t be perfect overnight, but we will refine it over time with the moderators (especially r/IAMA, r/science, r/books the most prolific communities for AMAs).”

Another major development after last night’s article was a revelation that came from former Reddit Community Manager “Dacvak”, whose real name is David Croach.  He was able to make a post in subreddit r/IAmA, describing his time with Reddit:

“..Back in 2011, I applied for a job at reddit. The job was actually /u/hueypriest’s (Erik Martin) former position as Community Manager as he stepped up to General Manager of reddit. In late 2011, after a series of interviews, I received a call from /u/hueypriest offering me the position of Community Manager. (Back then, there were seriously about 10 employees at reddit. It was a very, very small company.) I obviously accepted the position.

However, in early 2012, a week before I was supposed to move to San Francisco, I was unexpectedly diagnosed with leukemia. I spent the next six of seven months in the hospital and received four enormous rounds of chemo as well as a bone marrow transplant. During my treatment (the day after my birthday, actually), reddit had made a company blog post about my diagnosis, reaching out to the community to help me find a bone marrow donor. reddit had also made the choice to keep my position open until I was able to return healthy and able to work. I will forever be grateful for what /u/hueypriest and the rest of the company did for me back then..”

He then goes on to describe his meetings with then-Interim CEO Ellen Pao after the implementation of Reddit’s policy that all employees must relocate to San Francisco to continue employment:

“..I had sat down with Ellen Pao (current reddit CEO) to discuss my future at reddit and when I was able to move. I had told her that it would still be at least a month (but probably closer to 2 or 3) before I was finally able to move to SF, and she said she was 100% fine with that..”

“..Less than a month later, in February of 2015, I received a call from Ellen stating that I was to be terminated in less than a week. When I asked what the specific reason was, she had roughly stated that ‘because of our discussion, you are too sick to properly fulfill your duties as Community Manager.’..”

“..I pleaded with Ellen to let me stay, as I had been sick for over a full year now and the only thing that was on my mind was coming back to work – work I loved so very, very much. She finally stated that if I were to get permission from my doctor stating that it was okay for me to move to SF and begin work, that I would be able to come back. I stated this wouldn’t be a problem, and proceeded to contact my doctor to arrange this. Unfortunately, a day later, she had called and once again stated that I was fired, stating that work would be too demanding for my health..”

David then goes on to offer his thoughts on Victoria Taylor and her dismissal, echoing the statements of many others that corroborate her popularity with the community:

“..Victoria was, without question, one of the nicest, most passionate, most efficient workers at reddit, and I honestly can’t fathom why she would have been terminated. It was such an honor to work with her, and as many mods have already stated, she truly took her work to heart and tried to provide a service to the community. She was one of the most well-known admins and was just incredible at her job. Without her, there would be hundreds of incredible AMAs that would have never happened..”

“..My guess as to why she was fired is as good as anyone else’s..”

He continues to offer a musing that Reddit seems to be hoping to turn AMAs into a more commercial venture, which might not have sat well with Victoria.  It’s pertinent to note that while this has not been confirmed, it is currently a prevailing theory from Reddit’s community as to why Victoria was fired.

One of David’s comments within his post also seems to indicate that during a company meeting with Pao, things got contentious for a moment, with Pao responding to a staff member questioning why they should trust her in her then-interim position by stating, “You’ll have to pry this position from my cold, dead hands!!!”.  This answer was apparently met with applause from other staff around the room.

As of this time, David’s post is no longer on the front page of Reddit, and his account has been deleted. [Eds note: It must be emphasized that all the above information from David is from him and him alone, therefore just accusatory at best rather than fact.]

Another popular Reddit mod, “kickme444″, creator of the subreddit r/secretsanta, revealed that he too no longer works for Reddit, and according to his Twitter, he has been out of the company for a couple weeks, setting off another round of outrage within the community after the announcement.

With CEO Ellen Pao’s popularity plummeting, there is currently a petition on change.org that as of this writing has over 64,000 signatures and counting, demanding for Pao to step down from her position.

With this just being the latest (and by far the biggest) ordeal Reddit has endured under Pao’s leadership, many users are migrating over to an upstart competing site, Voat.co, which as of this writing is down from heavy load, and has been periodically since the start of this latest debacle.

One has to wonder just how much more of this Reddit can take.

Developing: Popular Reddit sub r/IamA, Others Go Private

Earlier today on Reddit, users have alerted all over the site that the immensely popular subreddit r/IAmA went private, along with many other default subreddits that are currently unable to be viewed by non-admins and anyone who isn’t an approved submitter.  Reddit user Diotic currently has posted a running list of “darkened” subreddits that is being actively updated as this situation unfolds.  This appears to be the latest issue Reddit has had since new CEO Ellen Pao took the reigns of the site and banned some popular subreddits.

Explanations on the site include a post on subreddit r/OutOfTheLoop from user karmanaut explaining that well-liked admin “chooter”, aka Victoria Taylor, has been fired from the site.  According to karmanaut, Victoria was the go-to admin for the higher profile IAmA participants, ensuring verification that they were who they said they were and actively administering the ongoing IAmA sessions.  User karmanaut had this to say in his comment informing of Victoria’s untimely firing:

..Before doing that, the admins really should have at least talked to us (and all the other subs that host AMAs, like/r/Books, /r/Science, /r/Music, etc.) (Edit: not to suggest that we expect to know about Reddit’s inner workings. Just that there should have been a transition in place or something worked out to ensure that Victoria’s duties would be adequately handled, which they are not) We had a number of AMAs scheduled for today that Victoria was supposed to help with, and they are all left absolutely high and dry (hence taking IAMA private to figure out the situation) She was still willing to help them today (before the sub was shut down, of course) even without being paid or required to do so. Just a sign of how much she is committed to what she does.

The admins didn’t realize how much we rely on Victoria. Part of it is proof, of course: we know it’s legitimate when she’s sitting right there next to the person and can make them provide proof. We’ve had situations where agents or others have tried to do an AMA as their client, and Victoria shut that sh*t down immediately. We can’t do that anymore..

Twitter has been trending with the hashtag #TheDarkening, with users expressing their displeasure at the unceremonious dismissal of a popular admin.  This is a developing story, and we will update it with more information as soon as possible

Reddit staff admin u/kn0thing has posted a response to karmanaut’s statement regarding Victoria’s dismissal:“We don’t talk about specific employees, but I do want you to know that I’m here to triage AMA requests in the interim. All AMA inquiries go to AMA@reddit.com where we have a team in place.

Post  on [a mod sub] :

We get that losing Victoria has a significant impact on the way you manage your community. I’d really like to understand how we can help solve these problems, because I know r/IAMA thrived before her and will thrive after.

We’re prepared to help coordinate and schedule AMAs. I’ve got the inbound coming through my inbox right now and many of the people who come on to do AMAs are excited to do them without assistance (most recently, the noteworthy Channing Tatum AMA).

Victoria, under her Reddit handle, u/chooter, has answered to a question from a CC Weekly Herald reporter that “You guys know what I know” regarding her dismissal from Reddit.  In the meantime, we have reached out to her for comment. The count is over 200 subreddits (over 200 subreddits with at least 5000 subscribers) so far on Reddit that have decided to go “dark.” This doesn’t seem to be from just a specific type of subreddit (i.e. those regarding gaming, default subreddits, tech subreddits, etc.) but widespread from a wide variety of different subreddits.It is also worth noting that an image is floating around alleging Victoria was fired due to disagreeing on certain commercial matters surrounding AMAs. We have not seen or heard any further evidence that this is the case. It is also worth noting the image that is going around includes a post that has now been deleted.

Regarding the previously discussed image’s allegations about Victoria’s disagreement regarding commercial matters and AMAs, Reddit CEO Ellen Pao has denied them.Admin kn0thing posted a response to the major subreddits, saying that their message was heard loud and clear and that the subreddit should come back online to not further punish redditors.

Further, kn0thing claims that Reddit will put more resources into helping mods, particularly with AMAs, in addition to being more communicative.

There are also unconfirmed reports that admins are pressuring default subreddits to come out of the dark.

Some of the subreddits that went dark have come back online today, citing the admin response as well as explicit promises to fix  things at this time. Of the major subreddits, those that have come back online include r/History, r/Books, and r/Gadgets.Additionally there has been confusion over r/Punchablefaces caused by that Reddit’s going private page. It has come back up since, but the reports that it was banned were erroneous due to the fact that the moderators intentionally made the private page message look like it had been banned.