It Seems Reddit Ex-CEO Ellen Pao Isn't to Blame for Site's Meltdown

By Chris Mills on at

If you thought that the Reddit drama had ended with the ousting of Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, think again. According to a series of posts, Pao didn’t make the decision to fire anybody:  Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanion did.

The story so far goes something like this: Reddit employee Victoria Taylor, the de-facto company liaison with the site’s army of volunteer moderators, was unexpectedly let go two weeks ago. The site responded by shuttering popular subreddits, and signing a petition calling for CEO Ellen Pao’s removal. That movement seems to have been successful, with Pao announcing her resignation on Friday.

But in a comment made late on Sunday, former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong claims that Pao had no hand in Taylor’s firing (the act that set off the site’s tantrum). It was instead all apparently the work of Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian:

I’m glad redditors have started to piece together all of this. Here’s the only thing you’re missing:

It travels upstream, except when it comes from the CEO’s boss.

Alexis wasn’t some employee reporting to Pao, he was the Executive Chairman of the Board, i.e. Pao’s boss. He had different ideas for AMAs, he didn’t like Victoria’s role, and decided to fire her. Pao wasn’t able to do anything about it. In this case it shouldn’t have traveled upstream to her, it came from above her.

Then when the hate-train started up against Pao, Alexis should have been out front and center saying very clearly “Ellen Pao did not make this decision, I did.” Instead, he just sat back and let her take the heat. That’s a stunning lack of leadership and an incredibly shitty thing to do.

I actually asked that he be on the board when I joined; I used to respect Alexis Ohanian. After this, not quite so much.

It’s unclear where Wong is getting his information; it’s possible that he’s just extrapolating from Ohanian’s earlier posts, which took responsibility for Taylor’s firing, in a very roundabout way:

Ellen is a class act. I have gotten to know Ellen well as we’ve worked closely together over the past eight months and I’m impressed by her hard work and integrity as she’s strived to do what’s right for both reddit the company and reddit the community. I have admired her fearlessness and calm throughout our time together and look forward to following her impact on Silicon Valley and beyond. It was my decision to change how we work with AMAs and the transition was my failure and I hope we can keep moving forward from that lesson. Today was another step. I’m really excited to be working with Steve again and appreciate what Ellen did during her time here.

[Emphasis added]

But whatever the case, it certainly adds some fuel to the (barely believable) rumour seeded by Wong, claiming that the whole affair has been a long con to put Reddit’s founders back in control.

Either way, one thing is clear: Reddit’s drama is set to continue, with or without Pao. Until we know definitively what happened to the mysterious Victoria Taylor, Reddit’s tinfoil-hatted sleuths will not sleep. [New York Times]