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article imageAmid controversy Ellen Pao resigns from reddit

By Caroline Leopold     Jul 11, 2015 in Internet
Amid turmoil and criticism, reddit CEO Ellen Pao announced Friday that she is leaving the top post of the popular news and social media site.
Reddit, one of the largest news and social media websites in the world, has been undergoing a shake up. Amid turmoil and harsh criticism, interim chief executive Ellen Pao announced Friday she will step down.
Pao announced her resignation in a reddit post on Friday.
So why am I leaving? Ultimately, the board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining reddit’s core principles.
Pao's comment suggest what many to believe that there is a push desire to "monetize" the popular website. Like Facebook in the past, there may be investor pressures for the site to deliver money as well as chatter.
New York Times reporter Mike Issac made an impromptu visit on one of the reddit communities on Friday to answer questions. When asked whether charging celebrities for AMAs, Issac wrote:
I can tell you, from people I spoke with, that monetization of AMAs was something well-discussed internally. What's interesting to me now is that Sam Altman, a board member and investor, expressed in his AMA that he is not sure that's the right way to go about things.
The New York Times partially attributed Pao's departure to being a woman in Silicon Valley:
“The attacks were worse on Ellen because she is a woman,” said Sam Altman, a member of the reddit board. “And that’s just a shame against humanity.”
A highly publicized story, separate from reddit, has been Pao's sex discrimination lawsuit with a Silicon Valley investment firm. Pao lost the case and a judge ordered that she pay $276,000 in court costs.
Pao’s departure from reddit seems related to when news broke that Victoria Taylor, a prominent and well-liked employee, had been suddenly dismissed from the company this month with no public explanation. Taylor acted as a liaison with reddit's popular "Ask Me Anything (AMA)" threads, where famous people answered questions from users.
Taylor was particular in helping volunteers moderators facilitate these star-studded AMAs. Taylor sent private messages to the moderators to explain that she had been fired and no reason was given. Taylor remained on the website for the rest of the day and thanked users for a groundswell of support, but made no further comment on the situation.
In a show of protest, several communities were "set to private," which meant they were shut down except for subscribers. Communities of reddit or subreddits have autonomy in making decisions, which meant that "darkening" of reddit was scattered across the site.
A few days before her resignation, Pao posted an apology to the community and pledged better communication and transparency.
We have apologized and made promises to you, the moderators and the community, over many years, but time and again, we haven’t delivered on them. When you’ve had feedback or requests, we haven’t always been responsive. The mods and the community have lost trust in me and in us, the administrators of reddit.
AMAs were among the highest-traffic discussions on the board, which then led to public figures from business, entertainment and even world leaders to clamor for a chance to share with a mass audience. The numbers of high profile AMAs would make any journalist jealous — Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Snoop Lion, Bill Nye, Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray and the list goes on.
Pao will be replaced by Steve Huffman, one of the co-founders of reddit. Huffman and Alexis Ohanian started reddit in an apartment outside Boston in 2005. The company, based in San Francisco, has grown to more than 70 employees and relies largely upon its tens of thousands of dedicated users to manage the site.
Reddit is a private company, a majority of which is owned by Advance Publications, the parent company of Condé Nast. Last October, Reddit raised $50 million in venture capital from investors.
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