This afternoon, the president of the United States joined the ranks of Jeopardy! god Ken Jennings, Woody Harrelson, and a stripper–Harvard grad by descending into the depths of the Internet’s biggest message board for a live Q&A session. “I am Barack Obama, President of the United States” instantly lit up a certain pasty corner of the web, known for both online activism and esoteric video game memes (as well as occasionally icky stuff, like child porn). But as described in New York last month, “Reddit has emerged as a web power broker nonpareil,” not to mention a political force, and with Obama stopping by, the revenge of the nerds is all but complete. Unfortunately both the questions and answers were pretty predictable.
The president, and presumably an army of diligent interns, sifted through a pile of queries that had to be expected of the lefty, but pro–Ron Paul (and mostly male) hordes, including questions about space travel, Internet freedom, and legalizing marijuana. There was also a good amount of, “Coolest president ever? Coolest president ever.”
Obama took the bait on a few Reddit pet causes, but didn’t say much of substance. “Internet freedom is something I know you all care passionately about; I do too,” he wrote. See also: “Making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration.” He was asked to name his favorite basketball player (“Jordan — I’m a Bulls guy”) and for the White House beer recipe (“It will be out soon! I can tell from first hand experience, it is tasty”).
Ultimately, Obama and his staff’s online savvy — the fact that he did an AMA at all — will be more memorable than anything he said. The site crashed under the traffic load, and still received more than 12,000 comments in just about one hour to go with Obama’s ten answers.
“How the hell did you guys pull this one off?” one ecstatic Redditor asked. “This is reddit,” replied founder Alexis Ohanian. “You all pulled this off by becoming the front page of the internet.” “On a scale of 1-10, how much are you freaking out right now?” Betabeat Gchatted the site’s general manager Erick Martin, who responded, “Trying to stay cool right now. But still at an 11.” Obama himself rated the “whole reddit experience” a ringing “NOT BAD!” Overall, we give this thing about a four.