Sorry about starting a bit late; the team wrapped all of the items on my desk with wrapping paper so I had to extract them first (see:

I'll try to be online and answering all day, except for when I need to go retrieve food later.

17:09 Pacific: looks like I'm off the front page (so things have slowed), and I have to go head home now. Sorry I could not answer all the questions - there appear to be hundreds - but hopefully I've gotten the top ones that people wanted to hear about. If some more get voted up in the meantime, I will do another sort when I get home and/or over the weekend. Thanks, everyone!

Comments: 3311 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

25thinfantry1471 karma

How do you plan to generate revenues without pissing off the entire community? Like what happened at Digg?

uriman413 karma

I wonder if he would implement FB-style ads and corporate accounts like in FB. He could really sell targeted ads like Doritos to r/trees or Astroglide to r/Atheism.

I wonder if "corporate" is giving him pressure. Digg screwed up because investors were pressuring him to get more revenue right?

yishan274 karma

I have no pressure from "corporate." I was hired explicitly with no direction at all, and asked to come up with what to do. So reddit-as-city-state it is.

You will be interested to know that I was the engineering manager at FB in charge of both ads and the "corporate accounts" ("FB Pages"). But I don't think that's what reddit is about.

yishan356 karma

SdotM0USE's note about viewing reddit as akin to a city-state is on-base.

But two principles are this:

1) If you're not paying for a product, you are the product.

2) We should try to come up with as many ways for our users to pay us money as possible.

[credits go to two reddit employees who originally cited/articulated these two principles]

One of the ways Digg started to go off the rails is because they became too beholden to their advertisers. Ultimately, you are beholden to the people who give you money. Thus, I want an arrangement where most of our money comes from redditors.

This doesn't mean "charge to use reddit."

What it means is that I want reddit to be good enough and useful enough that enough redditors find it worthwhile to give us money. This will likely mean the addition of value-services, or new features. Or simply developing a somewhat different advertising model where most of the ads come from members of the community, because they will be more likely to be sensitive community norms, not to mention relevant.

For more talk, see the city-state answer.

honestbleeps1073 karma


I just wanted to thank you once again for being one of the few users who's tossed something (in your case, quite generous!) into the Reddit Enhancement Suite tip jar.

I know I thanked you privately, but I hope you don't mind me doing so publicly, as well.

I get discouraged sometimes with RES because there's an awful lot of negativity and entitlement that surrounds it with people freaking out over tiny little things... when the CEO of Reddit shows up in my email... well.. that's the sort of thing that helps keep me motivated to do what I do... so thanks.

Okay: I owe IAMA a question...

What are your thoughts on how the community has created tools around Reddit -- not just RES, but things like AutoModerator, sites like RedditInvestigator, etc -- do you feel that certain tools may be a detriment to Reddit, or is all sorts of crazy tinkering always welcome?

yishan561 karma

Oh, you're welcome! RES is great! (also, yes, I got your message - sorry I didn't reply!)

I think it's great that the community creates these tools.

It's always true that people can create bad tools, but I just consider that a part of, well, reality.

I'm also sort of partial to a sci-fi cyber future, where augmented humans and fully autonomous robots live alongside humans according to a stable equilibrium of social conventions we have not yet begun to figure out. If you think of reddit as a fully-fledged community (or a city-state), I think one inevitability is that humans will augment their capabilities with tools, or even create totally autonomous robots (e.g. the moderator bots). Ultimately, I believe these things don't make the world better or worse - they are exactly as good as humans ever are - but it's a future vision that I like, because it's more intense and cool.

It's possible that we will be able to extend our API allow such tools or robots in a more controlled/predictable fashion, but we haven't gotten that far with our thinking.

redditMEred706 karma

what are your plans for the "search" system?

yishan975 karma

Make search fast and comprehensive.

Any Googlers who love reddit and would like to re-write a search system from scratch can contact me.

yishan552 karma

Well, let me include correctness/relevance in my definition of comprehensive. But basically, yeah.

politicaldan632 karma

what's your favorite subreddit?

yishan1338 karma


Although I am disappointed. There has been a severe drop in good content being submitted to that subreddit over the past few weeks.

politicaldan452 karma

What plans do you have for the future of Reddit?

yishan993 karma

Hey, I'm going to write a really detailed answer here but this is a placeholder while I write it; interspersed with writing shorter answers to other simple questions. Just want to let you know.

(one hour later...)

I've begun to converge on the idea that a good way to think of reddit is as a city-state. This is in contrast to how a lot of businesses think of themselves as e.g. money-making machines to be optimized and exploited, and customers to be cynically manipulated.

In particular, when answering the question, "what is reddit?" there are at least two answers that often arise. The first is "reddit-the-company," which is a legal entity responsible for maintaining and building the platform (servers, code). The second is "reddit-everything," which is both reddit-the-company, plus the community, their contributions, the brand, etc. This has a lot of similarities to a city-state. With a city, there is the legal framework and physical infrastructure, plus basic services. Then there are all the people who live in the city and form communities and institutions and culture and provide the real character of that city. The "City of San Francisco" is the legal entity, and then there is "San Francisco" that people think of when they say the name, with all the people and culture and institutions. Notably, the city-as-legal-entity does not own the people and communities. It may exercise jurisdictional power for purposes of maintaining civil order (e.g. police, fire, anti-spam), and there is a concept of eminent domain, but morally speaking the city exists to facilitate and steward the messy human goals of the people who live there. This is how I've come to think of reddit.

1) Community: I would like more people to be able to use reddit. reddit is great, and I think that with continually-improving community-management features, the proliferation of subreddits means that more people can find communities that they like on reddit and benefit from the general positive spirit that reddit has. It can be a city-state that is unbound by the geographical limits of real-life cities, and subreddits can do a lot to loosely link together many diverse communities and peoples.

I agree with our heretofore policy of non-interference except in exceptional cases where the greater reddit is threatened. It maps pretty well again to the analogy of a city-state: city administration does not interfere with peoples' private lives and their debates except insofar as to maintain civic order. Even usage of eminent domain is very controversial, so it's not done lightly. So I feel that we have two main goals:

  • Encourage the health and vibrancy of the community via useful tools and features, but as Clay Shirky noted, many problems in online communities are social problems, and they cannot be solved by technical means.

  • Encourage the growth of the city-state, e.g. encourage people to join reddit, help them learn what the behavioral norms are, find subreddits that most interest them, and promote the brand of reddit to the world at large.

2) Infrastructure: a key responsibility of reddit-the-company is to maintain a reliable, quick, and efficient infrastructure. We're the only ones who can, and ensuring that basic services run well is key to everything else.

3) Self-sustaining revenue. reddit has a number of promising revenue streams that can be responsibly scaled and there have been good ideas from both the community and team about other things we can do to monetize that are beneficial rather than extractive.

If you have a million people living in a city, no one says, "Hey, we have two million eyeballs, let's monetize by plastering every city surface with ads!" I don't have a personal objection to ads per se, but the problem of being reliant on advertising as our main revenue source is that you're always beholden to the people who pay you money, and if we (reddit-the-company) are beholden to outside advertisers, we may not be aligned with the interests of our users. The situation where your revenue comes from advertisers but you try to hold the line on what's best for your users is a tough situation to be in: there's constant tension and difficult tradeoffs - both Google and Facebook have this issue. I'd like for us to not have that issue.

I'd prefer for us to be "beholden" to our users. If we can have most of our revenue coming in from users - either in the form of paying for additional services we build or if most of our advertising comes from the community advertising to itself (e.g. self-serve) - then our interests will be more aligned, like a city-state is beholden to its taxpayers.

So, that's roughly a high-level conception of how I see reddit (managing a city, rather than a product), and what I believe that implies regarding our responsibilities in building that city.


1) I see reddit as a city-state

2) Community, infrastructure, self-sustaining revenue

joshkoster313 karma

As a reddit advertiser (and online advertiser in general) can I beg you to build a better DIY advertising platform?

I would be spending SO much more money on your site if the tool was even slightly better.

More importantly, easy to use DIY ad platforms (with geo-targeting) democratize your advertiser base. It doesn't need to be fancy, just easy enough to use that a redditor can promote their local business.

That way you can keep your advertising revenue within the community.

edit: i can't write

yishan212 karma


I do think that DIY advertisers are essential to reddit (I like the idea of the community advertising to itself), and for various lack-of-resource reasons we neglected the tool. So definitely, we are going to work on improving that.

I mean, yeah - you want to give us money; I want to make it easier for you to give us money!

katacarbix397 karma

How does your boss feel about you being on Reddit all day?

yishan418 karma

Glad that I'm finally doing a full day's work.

Mr_Trofl372 karma

You must have cats.

yishan695 karma

That's not a question.

politicaldan336 karma

How would you compare Reddit to similar sized companies?

yishan707 karma

Compared to companies that drive a similar amount of traffic: reddit is able to do so with far fewer employees and a lower cost basis.

Compared to companies with a similar number of employees: reddit drives way more traffic (well, maybe except for Instagram?) and has a much larger influence on the world.

Compared to companies of a similar age: Sometimes you need a 6-year window

blueth258 karma

If, hypothetically, Facebook were interested in buying Reddit, would you sell? If so, for how much?

yishan556 karma

I used to work at Facebook. Not to say that working there was bad, but I don't see any reason to go back.

NokoSpotter248 karma

Do you play starcraft II?

yishan479 karma

Yes. yishan:215

Low Silver league, baby!

AndyRooney222 karma

is there any way at all you can limit all your comments to Rampart?

yishan200 karma

I was actually going to try and see the movie before i did this AMA so that I could make comments and talk about it, but when I looked it was only being shown in these obscure theaters over an hour's drive from me.

Warlizard177 karma

  1. How do you intend to monetize Reddit?

  2. Are you going to actively and aggressively pursue more celebrity attention and activity here?

  3. What is your goal as CEO?

yishan215 karma

1) In a nutshell, by giving users more reasons to pay us money.

This might seem awful, like "oh no, he's going to charge us for reddit services!" but what it really means is that I want to try and make sure reddit is doing things for you that you value so much that you want to pay money for them. I feel that reflects who we're creating value for. If you do things that make advertisers money, it means you'd doing things that create value for advertisers.

While I'm not philosophically opposed to ads, and in fact I'm happy with people advertising on reddit, I feel that if our main source of revenue is advertisers, it means that we are mostly serving advertisers. If our main source of revenue is users, it means that we are mostly serving users.

As a user, it's what I'd prefer. There are sites that I like that are good enough that I am willing to pay for them (reddit is one, actually), and there are sites that I use for free, and someone else is paying for that fact. I'd like reddit to be the former.

2) Kind of, yes.

I view celebrity attention and activity as something that helps bring people to reddit. The question is how to bring the right types of people to reddit, i.e. people who are interested in discourse and community, and would find reddit interesting.

3) I would like to see reddit as a platform for universal human discourse, available to all. I hope to see a day in the future where whenever someone says, "I would like to have a discussion about X" and whether X is serious or frivolous, the obvious answer to that question is "reddit would be the best place to have that discussion."

[deleted]197 karma

are you going to fix the markdown syntax so that you don't make silly list-numbering mistakes like this in the future?

yishan32 karma


politicaldan176 karma

What's your thoughts on the reddit "Hivemind?"

yishan530 karma

It's actually a remarkably good analogy.

You know how people often use "herding cats" as an analogy for managing developers or writers or other difficult-to-manage people?

Well, "managing" the community is kind of like beekeeping. There is absolutely no way to get it to do what you want, so you can't really manage or control it, you are mostly just trying to set up ways for all the bees be happy. Flowers and stuff[1]. And if they are happy, sometimes they will make honey, and everyone seems to like that (e.g. positive change for the world, charity drives, etc).

Occasionally something will piss off the bees (sometimes it's something you do, or something someone else does) and they will swarm around and sting you. You really can't do anything about it, but also the swarm eventually goes away.

And like beekeepers, you just need to be wearing decent protection, or have a thick skin. I grew up in the internet age of trolling and flaming, so it's pretty okay for me.

TL;DR: yeah, it's like a hivemind. It swarms uncontrollably, but it also makes honey.

[1] I don't actually know much about beekeeping.

Wasoomi162 karma

First off (delayed) congratulations on the position, wish you all the best. Question: Can you describe a regular day as a Reddit CEO? Are there emails/phone calls involved? A brief explanation would be great. Thanks

yishan345 karma

Most of my days are pretty irregular, dealing with whatever comes up (or which I planned for that day).

I am definitely a big user of email. I think that stuff is great! You just type your letter on this magic television with a keyboard and zip! the computer just sends it off someone! I love the future!

The phone, less so.

baxterfp143 karma

How can us users helps advance Reddit? How do you feel about the current direction of our lil (massive) world?

yishan160 karma

Well, let me first reference my vision of "reddit as city-state."

From that perspective, I would say, "Do what a citizen who is proud of their city would do to build and enhance that city."

There are many things that make a city great that the city government cannot do. They have to be done by private individuals or many individuals working as a collective.

One of these things is creating institutions that promote the ideals of the city. Some institutions are public, but others arise from the desires of the people. On reddit these might be important subreddits (and moderating them), conventions of behavior (and encouraging them by telling people and expressing disapproval when violated), or schools of thought (like styles of moderation). Or probably half a dozen other things I haven't thought of.

These are important because institutions live and die by a more free-market dynamic than the actions of city government, and thus are more faithful to serving the needs of the community. reddit's unique value is very much its community, so helping to grow institutions of and by it is very crucial.

Or, if that sounds too lofty and daunting, just help spread reddit to your friends. Help bring people to our fair city, and show them around. reddit-the-company will try to build some better subreddit-discovery features, but the real reason people come to a new city and love it is because of the people they find there. So one thing you can do is just introduce people to reddit and help them understand it and feel welcome.


1) build institutions within reddit

2) introduce new people to reddit and help them feel welcome

whosdamike201 karma

Or, if that sounds too lofty and daunting, just help spread reddit to your friends.

So to use reddit you have to have FRIENDS now?

I don't like these changes. Not one bit.

yishan21 karma

Creating good novelty accounts contributes to the community too.

politicaldan132 karma

What's your favorite meme?

(I have a bet with a coworker that it's high expectations asian father)

yishan201 karma

You win the bet.

politicaldan112 karma

What are your plans and ideas to keep Reddit from going all Myspace?

(sorry for the multiple questions, i just thought of them while waiting for you.)

yishan208 karma

Generally I want to refrain from speaking ill of competitors ("competitors") but they are so far gone so I think maybe it's okay.

One thing to point out is that it's actually pretty hard to screw up the way Myspace did. They did almost everything wrong that you could do that I'm not even sure where to start.

I guess I'll start with two big basics:

1) Don't love your advertisers more than your users. If you're going to use advertising as a revenue stream, keep in mind that advertisers go where users are, but users don't go to a place for the ads. At one point, Myspace implemented an ad for the Hulk movie on the frontpage, where the Hulk would pop out at your on your browser for a few seconds and play an animation before you could use the page. No human being goes to a site to see an ad like that.

2) Open-source technology stack I'm not saying this due to any OSS idealism, but there's an interesting thing that happens for sites of a world-class size: at the highest traffic levels, OTS (closed-source) software doesn't scale. This is just because OTS software is built for the common case, i.e. non-world-class traffic levels. OTS open-source software also doesn't scale - the difference is that once you hit the scaling limit of your technology stack, open-source software allows you to open it up and scale it yourself, whereas closed-source software does not. Myspace was continually at the mercy of Microsoft, who had to send down technicians to try and scale their stuff for them, whereas e.g. Facebook just keep building out its stuff using its own engineers. This meant that Myspace often had spotty or terrible performance and was powerless to do anything about it.

Ahhh... this could get so long so I'm going to link to an answer I wrote elsewhere about it. Sorry to be lazy - there are so many questions here to answer!

skyscraperdream100 karma

what is a typical day like? (if it exists)

yishan226 karma

I don't think I've had a typical day yet.

One macro thing that makes my days atypical is that I have to commute 40 miles each day to the office, so I actually spend two days working off-site either at home or another local co-working space. So I split my on-site days doing more face-to-face stuff and my off-site days doing more thinking/writing. Though we just got an offer accepted on a house in SF, so hopefully that will end soon[1].

Another thing is that in a ceo position, you often don't have typical routines. You're sort of dealing with whatever issue is most important. I'm hoping to set up a regular cycle of face-to-face meetings soon with every member of the reddit team (right now they've been ad-hoc) so that I can keep up to date, and that might give some regularity to my schedule, but so far it's just been dealing with things in a "as-they-come-up" fashion. It's a transitionary period, both in me learning more about the company, meeting other ceos to get tips about the job, working on financial/legal items relating to the company's separation, etc.

[1] reddit ceo tells you about his personal problems

skyscraperdream58 karma

so, for example today, what issue was most important?

MSkog123 karma

This AMA.

yishan284 karma

Pretty much. Today was reserved entirely for the AMA.

BritishEnglishPolice165 karma

Don't forget our dinner date!

yishan141 karma

I'll bee there!

ServerGeek73 karma

Did you take the reddit crew out to see Rampart?

yishan17 karma

I would if they wanted, but hueypriest said they saw it and told me it was pretty bad.

RyanKinder66 karma

According to your wiki page you were the SEM of PayPal... So I'm curious if you know why PayPal makes it intentionally hard to contact them when you need to (even going so far as to obfuscate their phone number on their own website)?

yishan113 karma

(more accurately, was a SEM at PayPal)

Yes, they do. The reason is not exactly sinister - one issue facing many internet companies is that they have a much larger user-to-employee ratio than brick-and-mortar companies. They simply can't provide enough humans to handle the call volume, so they structure things to encourage you to contact them via other, more scalable means like email or webforms. If they gave you a readily-available phone number, the call volume would be so high that you'd spend most of your time waiting on a busy signal.

That said, that's not the worst problem with PayPal's customer service. :-/

dheisman16 karma

Why don't they just say that instead of being all sneaky about it? Lack of transparency is probably the one thing that irks me the most about companies.

yishan59 karma

I should try to get the CEO of PayPal to come do an AMA.

the_jowo29 karma

What do you find most enjoyable (or daunting) about being the CEO of Reddit?

yishan86 karma


There is a great sense of potential about the future. reddit has emerged from a long line of trials and tribulations to become a great force for good on the web. What amazing things lie ahead??

Also, the cafeteria here is really good.


I could totally fuck it up. All my friends use reddit, so on Day 1 it's all "Congratulations on the new job, Yishan!" but on Day 700 it could be "Way to ruin reddit, Yishan! It was doing great before you came along!"

So I have very personal reasons to do a good job.

weatherwar19 karma

Do you ever plan on large changes to the way Reddit works?

yishan29 karma

I prefer small changes over large changes.

It would be cool if we could have some way to test our changes on smaller scales (like having some subreddits voluntarily adopt them or something) so that things could evolve more quickly through experimentation, but that's as far as my thinking goes on that topic.

Willson5013 karma

Are you going to fight patent trolls?

yishan24 karma

I would like to see us implement an invention disclosure policy where we commit to only using the patents for defensive purposes.

Twitter recently announced a policy like this, so I'm a little disappointed that they beat me to the punch, because for years I had be like "man, when I run a company, we're gonna do that." And then they beat me by like a couple weeks.