When President Barack Obama decided to take questions directly over social media he didn't turn to his 28 million Facebook fans, or his 19 million Twitter followers. Instead, he turned to a website called Reddit where popularity is measured, fittingly, in votes.
"Hi I'm Barack Obama, President of the United States," Obama posted on the site by way of introduction. User Druken_Economist posted "moderators and admins have confirmed this thread; this is actually President Obama." Several other verification items also confirmed it, including a tweet from the official Barack Obama Twitter account and a photo on Reddit of the president seated at a plain wooden desk, staring into an Apple laptop in front of a single lamp.
In roughly 30 minutes, Obama waded through hundreds of questions, answering only 10 on a wide range of topics including balancing life and family, and protecting Internet freedom. His unexpected online appearance caused a traffic surge that temporarily locked users out of the Reddit site, said general manager Erik Martin in a G-chat interview with The Verge. At one point, more than 30,000 users were on the page with more than 200,000 concurrent visitors, Reddit posted on Twitter. Martin said it was its highest traffic day ever.
High profile people have been interviewed before, including Larry King, Jimmy Kimmel, Ron Paul and Stephen Colbert. The two most popular Ask Me Anythings before Wednesday were astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson and "Jeopardy!" champion Ken Jennings.
Redditors, as they are known in the online community, seemed mostly welcoming.
"9 minutes and already 200+ comments," wrote user KoreanTerran. "Good luck, Obama. You're going to need it."
User DirectCharge posted "ONE OF US. ONE OF US."
Others wondered how he came to the decision to participate in an Ask Me Anything or AMA. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian told AllThingsD in an email that it wasn't complicated. "There are quite a few redditors at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and at the campaign HQ --- given the prominence of reddit, it's an easy sell."
User mimicthefrench posted how funny it is to imagine "President Obama sitting in the oval office giggling and looking at photos of cats." Redditors post lots of photos of cats. And dogs. And people doing silly things.
But they also discuss serious topics and wasted no time getting on the record with tough questions including "Why are we still in Afghanistan?" and "What are you going to do to end the corrupting influence of money in politics during your second term?"
And while they may have allowed the president to get away with not answering a few hundred questions, they did not allow him to get away with incorrect grammar -- he used "their" instead of "there" in one post. CoCo26 responded to the error with, "I just corrected the President of the United States' grammar." Then later she posted, "EDIT: I'm ashamed of myself. I failed you all trying to be a smart ass..."
When another user tried to correct the president's use of "a" instead of "an" before the word asteroid, he received this reply from user Whoa_Chill_Bro: "don't correct the President, neckbeard."
In his last update, Obama thanked everyone for participating while also urging them to vote in November.
"By the way, if you want to know what I think about this whole Reddit experience," he concluded, "- NOT BAD!" a possible referencing the popular visual meme by the same name that features a drawing of the president.