Obama Opens Up Online

From The Millstone – August 30, 2012

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In the early evening of Wednesday, the United States President Barack Obama got a chance to answer questions directly from voters (Democrats, Republicans, and undecideds alike). However, this wasn’t your basic open forum at a debate, town hall, or rally. No, President Obama sat down at a laptop in a room in Charlottesville, Virginia, and answered questions from anonymous askers on the online social news site, reddit.

Shitty_Watercolour, a popular reddit user, welcomes President Obama with one of his works.

Fresh off the heels of a rally at the host city of the University of Virginia where Obama appealed to the youth vote, he further showed his dedication to the youth vote with his reddit Q&A, colloquially known as an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on the site.

For those unfamiliar with the site reddit.com, it’s difficult to explain. The site is an open-source social news site, where users have the ability to post photos, links (to newspaper articles, websites, etc.), or start discussions in one of thousands of “sub-reddits”. Other users then have the opportunity to comment on the original post. The sub-reddits each have a different focus (the list is endless, ranging in everything from US politics, to funny images, to city-specific reddits like Ottawa, to hobbies and jobs), with one dedicated specifically to these AMA’s.

The AMA’s have quickly become a kind-of hidden secret for politicians, as Obama is not the first to face the reddit hive. Previously, the likes of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, Colorado representative Jared Polis, and others have taken to the web to answer questions.

When Obama went up, the site went crazy with excitement (even leading to the site occasionally crashing.) The AMA has received over 19,000 comments at the time of writing, and that number will likely only grow as those from other parts of the world continue to log on and see.And while Obama dedicated 30 minutes out of his busy campaign trail to “be real” with the reddit community, the question of its success is hard to determine.

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