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I recently graduated with an MBA and an M.S. Information Systems from Boston University, concentrating in Marketing and Business Analytics. I also live on a boat and have a Boston Terrier named Maracas.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My thoughts on Reddit and Innovation

Reddit[i] is a community where registered users, known as redditors, submit content in the form of text or links that connect to images, videos, news, etc.  This content can be up-voted or down-voted by other redditors and the best voted content will float to the top of the page.  Within the content, redittors can also comment and these are down-voted or up-voted as well.  If your content or comments get up-voted you get “karma” which is used to tell other users how active you are.  There are also subreddits that are communities created around specific areas of interest.

The name reddit is rumored to come from the fact that the readers are also the editors. The alternate theory is that it is a play on words “I read it on reddit.”[ii] Redditors are mainly nerds.  They can be history, computer, science, or just plain nerd-nerds.  This provides for very interesting interaction that eventually may lead to innovation.  While this is not specifically an innovation community, much innovation has come from it and much more will come out of it in the future due to the interest of the people, the community feeling, and the ranking system.
At first, it is very difficult for new members to participate as they have little karma and credibility.  These users are down-voted with almost anything they post.  The way they can get initiated is by up or down-voting others to get karma.  The rules for participation are few: users may never post personal information and they may not spam.

Reddit is a flat governance, open participation[iii] type of collaboration.  Anyone can solicit and offer ideas, and no single participant has the authority to decide what is or isn’t a valid innovation.  Users may ask anything, and replies will be policed by the community in the form of up-voting. Innovation occurs when you get people from very different backgrounds to discuss a point.  Take for example the idea for the movie Rome Sweet Rome[iv] that came from a thread where historians, veterans, and other nerds were discussing the possibility of bringing down the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus.  Users argued that this may be possible with the help of a modern U.S. marine infantry battalion[v], and is now an idea for a movie.  Another innovation that came out of Reddit is the University of Reddit[vi] where users with a particular set of skills teach other redditors.  One example of such classes is the Game Concept Art[vii] class. Other innovations have been the wide introduction of Memes[viii], Generosity Campaigns[ix], the many game improvements on Minecraft[x], and the inception of the “Restoring Truthiness[xi]” campaign by Stephen Colbert.

This community fosters innovation because it allows anyone to interact, it’s free, and it has millions of registered users from all over the world.  Users volunteer their time in order to validate facts, contribute, and curate the content.  There are large numbers of solutions and much variability, but the users themselves up-vote the best solutions to the top of the page.  The biggest challenge is that users may vote for the best solution while not the most profitable. Everyone benefits from this community because of the knowledge that is exchanged and the people that redditors meet from all over the world and all walks of life.  This has been so important, that redditors now hold meet-ups[xii] and secret santa[xiii] exchanges to meet their fellow contributors all over the world. 

As of now, there is nothing that I would change about this community.  People are happy and they work for free just to feel part of a community.  Ideas may be crazy sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad.  I would totally see Rome Sweet Rome even if time travel doesn’t currently exist. But, maybe the redditors already have a plan for that!

[i] “Reddit: The Front Page of the Internet” <http://www.reddit.com>
[ii] "Frequently Asked Questions." Reddit.com: Help. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.reddit.com/help/faq>
[iii] Pisano, Gary P., and Roberto Verganti. "Which Kind of Collaboration Is Right for You?" Harvard Business Review (2008). Print.
[iv] Zakarin, Jordan. "'Rome Sweet Rome': Reddit Thread Gets A Movie Deal." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/14/rome-sweet-rome-reddit-thread-movie_n_1010758.html>.
[v] "Could I Destroy the Entire Roman Empire during the Reign of Augustus If I Traveled Back in Time with a Modern U.S. Marine Infantry Battalion or MEU?" Reddit. Web. <http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/k067x/could_i_destroy_the_entire_roman_empire_during/c2giwm4>.
[vi] "University of Reddit." University of Reddit. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://universityofreddit.com/>.
[vii] "Game Concept Art." University of Reddit. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.reddit.com/r/gameconceptart/comments/cyyjq/referencesandresources/>.
[viii] "Internet Meme." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Mar. 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_meme>.
[ix] Alcorn, Angela. "5 Cool Things You Should Know About Reddit." Cool Websites, Software and Internet Tips. Makeuseof, 17 Mar. 2011. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/5-cool-reddit/>.
[x] "Minecraft." Reddit. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.reddit.com/r/minecraft>.
[xi] "Rally to Restore Sanity And/or Fear." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rally_to_Restore_Sanity_and/or_Fear>.
[xii] "Global Reddit Meetup Date." Reddit. Web. <http://blog.reddit.com/2011/06/global-reddit-meetup-day-will-be-this.html>.
[xiii] "Secret Santa 2011." The World's Biggest Gift Exchange Platform. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://redditgifts.com/exchanges/secret-santa-2011/>.


  1. So, since we're businessmen ... how would you take Reddit and apply it to the enterprise? I've been thinking lately that large enterprises need a knowledge base that's collaborative, easy, fun, and useful (something like Reddit!). Yammer has made some in-roads...but it's more enterprise Twitter, and not a knowledge base / discussion forum. If you could combine reddit, wikipedia, and yammer ... I think you'd have a winner!

    1. I'm not sure that you can. It is my opinion that the reason people flock to reddit is for things that have nothing to do with money. They want to feel like part of a community and they are willing to invest their time as long as nobody takes advantage of it.
      By creating something that is more enterprise focused you will automatically attract a different type of personality and may not get the variance that you are looking for. Innocentive has something that may work, but not to the extent where reddit is somewhat cultish.