Redditors among us

The so-called Front Page of the Internet thrives in local subreddits.

Thom Q. Johnson

If the Internet is a drug, then Reddit is its most delicious and pure form.

The co-founder of the uber-successful, time-wasting, click-generating monster comes to campus Thursday night.

Alexis Ohanian, 30, is currently touring colleges across the United States promoting his new book, “Without Their Permission,” which tells his story of Reddit and the changing world of Internet entrepreneurism.

Ohanian may be the father of Reddit, but for most users he’s completely invisible. Like Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, Reddit is just a platform for its users’ conversations and content.

If you’re unfamiliar, Reddit runs on a democratic system of upvotes and downvotes. If someone posts a link that everyone likes, it receives upvotes and is bumped to a higher position on the page. If a link is unfunny, distasteful or not interesting, enough downvotes can banish it away to a dark corner of the site.

Brendan Schere, aka sgtscherer, moderator, or “mod” of a few local “subreddit” boards, including /r/Minneapolis and /r/Minnesota,  said the system means things generally take care of themselves.

“Generally people are very respectful,” Schere said. “We try to keep the ruckus down — I’ll remove racist comments, for example — but being a mod is a pretty hands-off thing.”

The number of subreddits out there is astounding. “Reddit has its own Rule 34 of the Internet: If you have an interest in something, there’s a subreddit that exists for it,” Schere said.

Almost every city and college in Minnesota (including the University’s own /r/uofmn) has its own subreddit forum for local fans of music, bicycling, fishing and beer to communicate. Dozens and dozens exist in Minnesota alone.

Reddit’s sense of community also sets it apart. Its collective of do-gooders and activists has organized gift exchanges and pizza purchases for needy users.

Through the work of mods like Brian Grondin, aka grondin, a graphic designer at Allegra Marketing, Print and Mail in Brooklyn Park, Twin Cities’ Reddit users have organized a robust calendar of “meetups” where users can hang out face-to-face.

“Minnesota can seem so closed at times,” Grondin said. “You’ve got your friends you went to high school with, your friends you went to college with — the people you were forced to interact with by your teachers and parents, basically.”

Through subreddits like /r/TwinCitiesSocial, the group organizes meetups for all kinds of interests. User-organized events include coffee meetups, board games, crappy bar hangouts, book clubs and pickup soccer.

Reddit’s not the only site where people try to get together, but its combination of general message board help gives it a stronger niche. “It could have been meetup.com, but we would get totally different people,” Grondin said. “Redditors tend to be smart people in their mid-20s, so the groups have a really good energy. … It’s a way to go out and explore the city with people you may not know.”

There’s even a meetup planned for after Ohanian’s talk Thursday. The maker will meet the monster face-to-face.

 

What: Alexis Ohanian
When: 7 p.m., Thursday
Where: The Bell Museum of Natural History, 10 Church St. SE, Minneapolis
Cost: Free (SOLD OUT)