Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

ObAMA: US president answers questions on Reddit

Presidents aren't expected to talk directly to online communities - they have minions to do that for them. But last week, Barack Obama ditched the minions and talked to internet users himself. Giles Turnbull reports

Last week, President Obama surprised the whole internet when he sat down for half an hour in front of a laptop and did what's known as an "AMA" - Ask Me Anything.

AMA is one of the more popular topics on Reddit ( www.reddit.com), an online community that does the "community" side of things very well.

Any Reddit user can offer themselves up to be the subject of an AMA session. For a short period of time, other Reddit members can ask them to reveal secrets or tricks of their trade.

What was all the more impressive about Obama's stint on Reddit was that he actually did it himself. No minions acted as intermediaries.

Obama personally sat, scrolled through the questions, and wrote answers.

Wait, you cry, how do we know that it was the real Obama? On the internet, no-one knows you're a dog, as the old saying goes. Just because you say you're the President, doesn't mean you are.

Reddit, and the White House, were ready for that. They posted a photo of the President in front of his laptop, and a tweet on the Presidential Twitter account as verification.

Reddit's moderators also made calls to the White House to confirm that the whole thing was real.

The Reddit community loves a good AMA session, and jumped in with hundreds of questions. Some were serious and thoughtfully political, others were downright daft (read the whole thing at www.reddit.com/askobama).

Any politician loves a Q&A like this, because they can cherry-pick the questions they want to answer.

Even so, it was fascinating to watch the world's most powerful leader talking directly to a lively and predominantly young internet community.

It's something British politicians might want to think about when our next general election comes along.

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