Reddit boss Huffman and Gamestop: Manager of the Memes – Digital


Steve Huffman had his Frankenstein moment in 2005. “The day I woke up and Reddit worked on its own was amazing. Holy shit, this thing really enriches a lot of people’s lives!” He once said of the early stages of the Online platform. He was in his early twenties and had been creating content for Reddit’s online forums with his college buddy Alexis Ohanian. Between two rounds of “World of Warcraft,” they had posted posts under made-up usernames – so it looked like they had more than a handful of real users. At some point, however, so many young people wrote about computer games and other nerd stuff that “u / spec” – the username of the Reddit boss – could stop cheating. A new being had arisen.

Today this being consists of more than 400 million users and has just turned the world of the stock market upside down. Therefore, the now 37-year-old has to testify virtually before the finance committee of the US Congress on Thursday.

Huffman’s platform is a place for weird ideas, a laboratory of the network’s meme culture: Here, users build picture collages and videos full of inside humor before they spread to the rest of the Internet. Huffman is now supposed to explain to politicians in Washington: How did the obsession of the Reddit sub-forum “r / wallstreetbets” for the shares of the video game retailer Gamestop turn into a storm that drove the company’s share price to absurd heights in January? Hedge funds that had bet on a fall in the share price lost billions. The committee wants to find out whether the financial market is out of control again.

The retail investor forum is a “real community,” Huffman wants to say according to his prepared statement, which Congress has published in advance. You can see that in the “self-deprecating jokes, the memes, the sometimes blatant language”. Such communities have to be protected, even if they come across as pubescent. He is proud that Reddit has sparked a debate about fairness in the financial markets.

The young, mostly male Reddit users would probably only allow themselves to be represented in Congress by someone without credible nerd references in protest. All the better that Huffman has been programming since he was eight and studied computer science. In 2006, he and Ohanian sold Reddit to the media company Cond̩ Nast for an amount between $ 10 million and $ 20 million. Today, Reddit is valued at roughly $ 6 billion. Huffmann left in 2009, backpacked Costa Rica, founded a travel start-up Рand then returned to the top of Reddit.

His subpoena to Washington shows that Reddit is more than a game of irony and verbal taboos. The big Gamestop redistribution wasn’t the first escalation. Time and again, Huffman’s creation imposes its will on the world. That can be funny, as in the case of the Greenpeace vote, which hijacked Reddit users to rename a humpback whale (“Mister Splashy Pants”). But that can also be a problem for Huffman. As in the case of the pro-Trump sub-forum “r / The_ Donald”, in which right-wing users drafted propaganda for the then president. At some point there were so many racists that even the FreeSpeech– Followers Huffman shut down the forum.

Huffman lives in San Francisco and belongs to that group of tech millionaires who not only love to party at the Burning Man festival in Nevada’s desert, but also prepare for a Mad Max-like future. He had his eyes lasered to increase his chances of survival after the collapse of civilization – at least that’s what he told him new Yorker. Some Reddit users will keep a close eye on the congressional hearing: the missteps of MPs, who are notoriously ignorant of computers, and Huffman’s reactions, can certainly make a few funny meme pictures.

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