During his TED talk at TEDIndia in 2009, Reddit.com co-founder Alexis Ohanian highlighted a number of empowering truths about the today’s internet. He also talked about how emerging professionals can enact social change through social media. The subject of Ohanian’s speech was an article that went up on Reddit’s front page, involving the environmental rights group Greenpeace demonstrating against the Japanese government’s latest whale-hunting endeavor. A proposed solution to the conflict was for Greenpeace to put a tracker on one of the whales, for which they would need a name. A polling process ensued, ending in a near-unanimous vote for the name “Mr. Splashy Pants”. After some reluctance on the part of Greenpeace (which was met by the unbending will of the people), “Mr. Splashy Pants” was the name granted to the tracked whale. Greenpeace was also successful in their campaign to stop the Japanese government from hunting whales off their coasts.
Among the plethora of subject matter present in Ohanian’s talk, 2 points stood out the most as beneficial to me:
· Open-Ended Messages- Ohanian expressed the importance of being okay with not being in control of how people perceive your message. The situation between Greenpeace and the Japanese government was serious issue. Reddit chose to approach such an issue with a combination of levity and interaction with their community. This ultimately accomplished the primary objective and fostered a sense of empowerment throughout Reddit’s online community, as it was their contributions that made the triumph possible. Questions with no right or wrong answer will usually yield more valuable information than a pointed one.
· Inclusion- Reddit.com’s format allows contributors to post stories for the approval or disapproval of their peers. The popular stories end up on Reddit’s “front page”. Allowing the audience to have input on different aspects of the user experience benefits content creators in 2 major ways. First, including the audience in decision-making transfers accountability for overall appeal of the subject matter to the community. Secondly, since creators have a direct link with their consumer base, the community can then become the think tank/beta group for new products and/or services.