Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest : All Tech Considered A user revolt briefly shut down the social-site last week after a key employee was dismissed. Interim CEO Ellen Pao says the company has "apologized for not communicating better" with site moderators.
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Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest

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Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest

Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

This past week, a lot of people visiting the popular social sharing website Reddit hit a wall. Volunteer moderators of many subeddits - those are topics - those are forums for forums from history to video games - had locked out users. It was a protest over the dismissal of Victoria Taylor, Reddit's director of talent and facilitator of the site's popular Ask Me Anything interviews, where anyone from Bill Gates to Bill Murray will answer questions from users. Much of the frustration is being directed at Ellen Pao, the site's interim CEO. I spoke with her this morning.

Ellen Pao, welcome.

ELLEN PAO: Thank you.

RATH: So it seems like the dismissal of Victoria Taylor is what set this off. Can you talk to us about why you decided to let her go?

PAO: No, we can't. We don't talk about individual employees. I think the dismissal surfaced issues around a transition, and we have apologized for not communicating better with the moderators. They should have been told earlier about the transition, and we should have provided more detail on the transition plan.

RATH: What do you think is the substance of why people are upset?

PAO: I think people have different reasons for being upset. One of the big reasons for the moderators being upset is the communication not just about the transition, but about where Reddit is going and around our plans. And we are working on improving communications. Also, they have struggled with, you know, the tools that come from a 10-year-old company, and we are looking to try build tools for the next 10 years. We have hired a product manager focused on tools and community. And we have also hired up five more for our community team, so that we can make sure that we're providing enough people to help with the community.

RATH: You have sort of a mandate to make Reddit become profitable. I'm wondering with - obviously, this is a model where the people - the volunteers - who make it happen have a big stake in it. How does that restrict you in terms of moving the company forward?

PAO: I don't think of it really as a restriction so much as figuring out who our different users are and making sure that we have choices for each of those users. So for core users, for our moderators, for the people who contribute content, I think they really appreciate the site for what it is and for how we are very sensitive to how we put advertising on the site, how careful we are with our privacy and how respectful we are of what they want to do on the site and how they want to use the site.

Our focus for them will be on better performance, making sure that the site stays up longer and that they can get their information faster. On the other side, we have a bunch of new users who, when they come to the site, they have a hard time navigating. For them, we're building these apps so that they get to the content that they love in a way that doesn't require a lot of work and doesn't require them to learn a whole different system.

RATH: I'm curious if what's happened this past week has exposed a vulnerability in Reddit. If the moderators - the volunteer moderators of these subreddits can shut these forms down in this way, are you concerned?

PAO: I'm confident that we can improve communication so that we can work with them. We are very much aligned in what we want, and the question is just making sure that we have a better relationship and closer coordination.

RATH: Ellen Pao is interim CEO of Reddit. Ellen, thank you very much for your time.

PAO: Thank you.

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