Yishan Wong

Yishan wong1
is the CEO of Reddit, a co-founder at Mountain View coworking space Sunfire Offices,and an advisor at Quora

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yishan3513 karma

Hi Arnold. Thanks for coming back.

I just want to mention that we have an opening for a full-time position on our community team.

We offer competitive salary and benefits, and one of our perks includes up to $500 reimbursable per year for gym memberships to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Under certain circumstances, you would also be authorized to wield the banhammer, although we have been especially impressed with your ability to resolve conflicts with well-chosen words.

We feel you would make a great addition to the team, and encourage you to apply for the position.

yishan2417 karma

He faxed a copy of his birth certificate.

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.

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

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.

yishan869 karma

Rent in San Francisco is just really expensive.

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

yishan695 karma

That's not a question.

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.

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.