When Reddit's long-simmering user frustrations boiled over into full-blown revolt last month, Victoria Taylor quickly and unintentionally became the rebellion's most celebrated martyr.
Best known for coordinating the site's popular Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions with celebrities and other interesting figures, Taylor was abruptly terminated in early July, reportedly at the behest of Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian as part of his plan to change how the interview feature is managed.
Without Taylor to serve as liaison to the site's volunteer AMA forum moderators, the subreddit closed itself to the public while organizers awaited more information from site administrators. Many other subreddits quickly went dark in protest of Taylor's dismissal, starting a cascade of backlash that soon led to the exit of Reddit CEO Ellen Pao.
After weeks of silence on her feelings about the turmoil caused by her ouster, Taylor on Saturday was the keynote speaker at a blogger conference, where she spoke about her experiences before and after leaving Reddit. (Disclosure: I was also a speaker at the event, the Type-A Parent NYC Bootcamp in Times Square, where I moderated a panel but was not involved with Taylor's presentation.)
"I did over 2,500 AMAs," she told the audience. "I would be working all the time, whether I was on vacation or traveling. I worked on my honeymoon. What's so important is that it's that person's time to shine, that person's time to really get out there and connect and share their story."
Although she did not describe the specifics of her exit from Reddit, Taylor said she felt lucky that it corresponded with a planned vacation so that she could go offline and largely avoid the resulting turmoil.
"We already had plans to get out of town to visit my husband's family for the Fourth of July, and that was really good," she said. "Just to unplug for a little bit was really helpful."
Coping with chaos
For those who might find themselves in a similarly high-profile situation, Taylor recommended focusing on real-world friends and family.
"Put the phone away. Just get outside. Enjoy nature. Enjoy being with people who love you," she said. "Take some time for yourself and breathe and remember that you are bigger than all of that. Things will figure themselves out. Center yourself and take that time that you need."
For Taylor, that time led to a new venture as WeWork's first digital community specialist. The network of shared workspaces is well-known to Taylor, who used its facilities for AMA meetups with celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld, Ludacris and "Weird Al" Yankovic.
She says her new professional mission is to bring a strong sense of digital community to a business that has largely been defined by its physical spaces.
"They have this fantastic physical space and this network of physical spaces and events they're doing, and I'd love to make sure their digital presence is every bit reflecting that," Taylor said. "Yesterday was only Day 3 for me, so I'm still getting my sea legs."
When Reddit is at its best, compassion abounds
Despite her ejection from Reddit, Taylor had nothing negative to say about the site, its leadership or its users. Instead, she focused on her appreciation for the kind words she received from supporters around the globe.
"I was incredibly humbled. People have been so kind. What was really touching for me was having these people come out of the woodwork," she said. "I always tried to be the most kind, efficient person I could be and respond to their concerns and let them know they were being heard. So to see all these people come out and say, 'Thank you for listening to us, thank you for caring about us,' that was really moving."
Reddit may be best known for its most caustic and cynical users, but Taylor said the site also could be a heart-warming place for AMA guests who weren't used to seeing so much unfiltered affection directly from fans.
She recalled watching Robin Williams become "choked up by all this outpouring of support for him, and then only a couple of months later, he's gone."
For Taylor, the primary lesson of her time at Reddit was to always keep in mind that each person can bring unique perspectives and insights to those who are willing to listen.
"I think it's important to treat everyone who reaches out to you with respect," she said. "To me, everyone's a celebrity."