Launched in 2005, the social news site Reddit has become one of the most peculiar, powerful, and even controversial destinations on the Web.
The Internet 2012 bus went off the beaten path this week to make one stop at a small Richmond, Missouri farm. While the tour has been very panel-heavy and startup-focused, the farm visit is a key component of Reddit's tour goal of framing Internet freedom as a fight that extends beyond Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
Now a reality, the Internet 2012 tour was born two months ago during an off-hand conversation on a walk to the subway between Reddit general manager Erik Martin and site co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Initially, it was as simple as a desire to take a bus across the country, but for Ohanian, who has amassed somewhat of a cult following as a result of his advocacy during the battle against SOPA/PIPA online piracy legislation, half-brained ideas can quickly become a reality. Like the Internet 2012 bus tour, which will travel well over 2,000 miles from Denver, Colo. to Danville, Ky. Like almost any endeavor Ohanian and Reddit throw their weight behind, the tour has a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek element to its execution. Ohanian and Martin don't take their Internet freedom issues lightly, but that doesn't mean they can't have some fun along the way. Nowhere is that more evident than in the bus itself.
Alexis Ohanian is not one to let a passing thought escape him. At a panel event bluntly titled "Startups + Politics: Why You Should Give a Shit," Ohanian, a local startup founder, and three speakers from the legislative side (two Colorado senatorial aides and a former chief of technology for the Federal Communications Commission) joined a passionate crowd of Colorado startup denizens to talk about Internet advocacy—what they're doing right, and how to keep the Internet free. Surrounded by an audience of deeply invested startup employees and Internet activists, Ohanian assumed his familiar role of Internet ambassador to the crowd, which aired its grievances toward the lack of communication between startups and politicians. With seemingly nothing to lose, Ohanian offered up his own spur-of-the-moment idea.