Alexis Ohanian: What I Read

Alexis Ohanian, the dude who co-founded Reddit, helped launch Hipmunk, advocates for free culture, opposes SOPA and serves as an all-around start-up sage, reads a lot of Reddit. 

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How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts and the literary world, to hear their answers. This is drawn from a conversation with Alexis Ohanian, the dude who co-founded Reddit, helped launch Hipmunk, advocates for free culture, opposes SOPA and serves as an all-around start-up sage, reads a lot of Reddit. 

I read a lot of Reddit. It's the first thing I think about when I wake up. I grab my phone -- my lovely Galaxy Nexus -- and pull open and see what's going on on the front page that morning and then I'll usually dive into Gmail and just triple-check to make sure that all of my tweets are in order before actually getting out of bed. But the first priority is always Reddit.

Honestly, I rarely consume news through print. In fact, I don't think I ever do. A New Yorker shows up at my apartment, but my girlfriend usually takes it. If I'm reading a book (usually nonfiction) I go both ways. I have a ton of paperbacks. I just refuse to buy a brand new hardcover and have to pay a premium for something that's just inconvenient when I can get it on my Kindle. If it's a new release, I'll get it on my Kindle, but if it's anything older I prefer to read it in paperback. Otherwise, everything is digital mostly for my laptop -- a little bit from my phone -- but this 13" MacBook Pro goes everywhere with me. I routinely wake up next to my laptop, and I go through this routine over whether I should make it breakfast. You know, I haven't owned a car since college, so this is the closest thing. My laptop is my everything -- it's my office, my mode of transportation so to speak to her, and I love her. I think I've fallen victim to that same kind of dudes-with-female-cars kind of thing. I also have a female cat. I need that female spirit with me.

My digital existence is definitely not just about the devices, though. It's really about portals. Take Reddit, for example. I'm always logged in because I've subscribed to a multitude of Subreddits. My home page is what I wish everyone's home page would be. I get frustrated because one of the legacies with my co-founder Steve Huffman and me -- we're still not there yet -- is conveying how Reddit is really just a platform for so many different communities. At this point I guarantee that there's a community on the site for anyone that's just a quick search away. Whether you love food or photos of food, there's a good food porn page. Or whether you love animal pictures or whatever. It's all there. And I read it every day. That's the thing. Reddit links to the best of the Internet I find myself drawing from a variety of sources throughout the course of the day. It's really whatever the Reddit community deems is most interesting.
Then, there are some quasi-print things to read, I guess, like magazines and newsletters and stuff. I was a subscriber to Stratfor. Before they had their security fiasco, that was the only really consistent source that I would read content from on a daily basis outside of Reddit because with Stratfor I could get these reports that would meake me feel like the president -- they're written in such an objective almost via diplomatic perspective. I do have a certain fondness for The Economist. I think part of the reason why I have that is also because despite plummeting magazine subscription numbers that was one that sort of innovated to continue and I think that they actually grow their subscription rates. I appreciate the ingenuity and resourcefulness; I guess The New Yorker is similar. I really believe that people are interested in paying for good content. I really do believe that there are business models that are continuing to emerge because I feel like that has to be the way forward. (I don't think it looks like The Daily.) The Atlantic has done a fantastic transition online, though. They've been very very shrewd embracing the Internet. There are always going to be good people that demand that.
That's one of the great things about the social web. The good stuff rises to the top -- there's a cool precision about that -- and it's easy to help people, too. For instance, I use Twitter primarily as a way to engage with people because it's a really good form for connecting with people interested in my startups or whatever it is people happen to be doing. I can be hopefully helpful in a very targeted, precise way. Getting a bunch of emails from people about startups is great because I want to help everyone, but there's also the volume. But answering an email is only helping one person. I like the fact that on Twitter, I can do this in public. And then Facebook I will try to use in order to keep up with my friends. Like, I just learned a friend of mine was engaged on Facebook. It doesn't really inform me about my world beyond my social network, though. For that, Reddit is indispensable. Reddit and Hacker News. I do use Google+. I do think Google+ has some merit. Google has failed numerous times trying to build software, especially social software. But from my opinion right now, it appears to be solving a problem for me. At the very least, what it has done is it has raised awareness for Facebook to people's concerns about privacy. It at least got a conversation going about privacy that I don't think Facebook was interested in having.
I read fun stuff too. On the internet. I read two web comics: xkcd and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Cyanide & Happiness, that's another good comic. It's morbid but it's cool. Honestly, Reddit is a good place for fun, because it provides me with endless hours of entertainment. For sports too! The only sports team that I really really follow is the Redskins. Our season are usually really short because we've given up usually two-thirds into it. And there's REDitSKINS now. I guess that means that Reddit has hit a critical mass, because there are enough masochistic Redskins fans that want to hang out on Reddit. I've been working hard on a lot of SOPA stuff, lately, so I don't have too time for fun. If I can time it right, The Daily Show and Colbert Report are good for a laugh, but usually I end up watching it the next day online. So the very last thing I do before I go to sleep … is check Reddit. Usually, again, from my phone in bed.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.