His responses only took all of 30 minutes, but president Barack Obama's "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit generated nearly 12,000 comments (200 within the first nine minutes) and 1,850,000 reads in under an hour. For his part, the president responded to 10 questions with paragraph-length answers and the whole thing went as about as seamlessly as one could hope for—but for all the buzz around the Internet, the real winner here was Reddit itself.
According to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in an email to All Things D, the site was in talks with the Obama administration for a while. Ohanian called the Obama get "an easy sell" noting, "there are quite a few redditors at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and at the campaign HQ."
At the end of the day, it's not as if Reddit needs the pageviews (they served 3.1 billion pageviews in July), but for a site that calls itself "the front page of the Internet," Reddit's trending in the social spheres suggests that the popular, but niche, site has arrived in the public consciousness.
Here are some of Obama's responses:
On work-life balance: "The main thing other than work is just making sure that I'm spending enough time with Michelle and the girls. The big advantage I have is that I live above the store - so I have no commute! So we make sure that when I'm in D.C. I never miss dinner with them at 6:30 p.m. - even if I have to go back down to the Oval for work later in the evening. I do work out every morning as well, and try to get a basketball or golf game in on the weekends just to get out of the bubble."
On Internet freedom: "We will fight hard to make sure that the Internet remains the open forum for everybody—from those who are expressing an idea to those to want to start a business. And although there will be occasional disagreements on the details of various legislative proposals, I won't stray from that principle—and it will be reflected in the platform."
On a troop surge in Afghanistan: "Any time you send our brave men and women into battle, you know that not everyone will come home safely, and that necessarily weighs heavily on you. The decision did help us blunt the Taliban's momentum, and is allowing us to transition to Afghan [leadership]—so we will have recovered that surge at the end of this month, and will end the war at the end of 2014. But knowing of the heroes that have fallen is something you never forget."
On campaign finance reform and super PACs: "They fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress—to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change."
He also had a few lighter moments...
On his favorite basketball player: "Jordan - I'm a Bulls guy."
On White House beer: "It will be out soon! I can tell from first hand experience, it is tasty."
At the end of it all, the president offered up his thoughts on what appears to be his first voyage into the wide world of Reddit noting, "by the way, if you want to know what I think about this whole Reddit experience - NOT BAD!"