In the wake of Ellen Pao’s resignation as Reddit’s interim chief executive, co-founder Steve Huffman was brought in by the company’s board to take her place. Pao left after eight months in the wake of a mishandled firing of a popular employee, which triggered protests by hundreds of thousands of the site’s 160 million monthly visitors. Since Huffman left the day-to-day operations of Reddit in 2009, three years after its sale to Advance Publications, he founded online travel site Hipmunk where he will remain as CTO.
Pao’s leaving is the culmination of “ill will that has festered for years between a small staff and the millions of community members that make up, and largely govern, the site,” reports The New York Times. In fact, the recent user anger was sparked by the dismissal of a popular staff member, Victoria Taylor who, as director of communications and talent, had a high profile with users, with whom she collaborated closely on the site’s “Ask Me Anything” section.
Users, surprised by Taylor’s dismissal, shut down portions of the site in protest, not just about the firing, but because of the lack of communication and forewarning. Moderator Karmanaut posted on Reddit, “We all had the rug ripped out from under us and feel betrayed.”
Pao apologized, but not before she had been the butt of misogynistic and racist comments. In addition to placating Reddit’s community, Huffman will also face a 70-member staff that has taken the brunt of much of that discontent and anger.
Pao — and Huffman — won’t be the company’s first chief executives to face sometimes withering scrutiny by the site’s user base. Former chief executive Yishan Wong, who preceded Pao, posted that, “Reddit’s definitely a lot more fun when you’re not running the place.”
His first order of business, says Huffman, is to improve relationships with the community, in part by regular “Ask Me Anything” Q&A sessions on the site. Reddit, which spun off from Advance Publications and raised two rounds of venture capital money, is poised to grow, says Huffman.
“Reddit is this amazing and wonderful thing, and it’s only a fraction of what it can be,” he said.