Here’s Why I Sympathize (and defend) Ellen Pao

Years ago when we were getting millions of visitors monthly on Funadvice.com, I had to delete some inflammatory comments left by a user. It turned out that he was a soldier that fought in Iraq and he said that he did not go there to fight just so I could delete his comments.

I felt really angry because my partner and I worked really hard to keep spam off the site and make it so it would be useful to everyone coming. I thanked him for his service and in no uncertain terms told him this is exactly why he fought in Iraq. For this freedom. For the ability of my site to remain private. For us to decide who would come there and why. For us to even decide to shut it down, change it entirely, sell it, make it wither or whatever we wanted.

At this point Reddit can’t do that.

It has become similar to Slashdot. Another community driven site that really, can never do anything to make their users happy. That’s why I left it, never to go back.

Moderators on Reddit have too much power. They have the ability to close their boards. Decide the content that goes on it. And even “strike” in sympathy with an employee who got let go from the parent company — for reasons that none of us (let alone the moderators) have any clear understanding of why.

Redditors have rejected advertising. And of course, the owners of the site decided to put up ads that others could vote down (genius guys).

Redditors have vetoed the ability of the company to hire and fire employees at will.

Redditors have practically prevent any major changes to the site.

So now, whats next?

Imagine owning a site that gets 20Million uniques per month and just around 150 Million pageviews. You can’t monetize it in any way. You’re pretty much not allowed to change it significantly — or the users will revolt.

Your site has become a part of the “plumbing” of the internet, but you cannot benefit from it.

Worse yet, you have to keep paying the expenses.

Most observers are siding with the #RedditRevolt guys. But while I sympathize with the Redditors, being the owner of several web properties puts me squarely on the site of CEO Ellen Pao and others who have the unenviable position of being where they are stuck now.

Because paying for those kinds of bills every month while not being able to monetize your asset. Well. That’s not tenable. That’s not sustainable, and the angry mob at Reddit had best realize that sooner rather than later.

Ericson Smith is the CTO of Travel Agency Tribes, a travel agency technology provider.

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