What does President Barack Obama have in common with a marijuana farmer, a former stripper and a 22-year-old who was set on fire in high school chemistry class? All of them have been featured in Reddit's popular “Ask Me Anything.”
After Obama first confirmed it was indeed him with picture and a tweet, he announced at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday that he would take questions for about half an hour. "Ask Me Anything," better known as AMA, is pretty much as advertised: Reddit's users post questions, and the featured guest posts answers, usually for a set time period, though they can come back and answer more questions later. Sometimes the process can take unexpected turns -- just ask Woody Harrelson -- but there's a reason it's called AMA and not, say, IAE, as in I'll Answer Everything.
Even if Obama had wanted to answer everything, there was no way he could have: As of 6:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, there were 12,784 comments. At one point there were more than 200,000 people visiting the page. So many people signed on, that the site crashed for some users.
Obama answered questions on everything from his plans for NASA to his support of Internet freedom to the most difficult decision he’s made in office (the surge in Afghanistan). Among the questions he did not address:
-- Who takes care of Bo, day to day?
-- If you and Joe Biden got in a 1 on 1 basketball game, who would win?
-- What's the recipe for the White House's beer?*
-- Chad and I were gonna order up a couple of pizzas, want in?
Obama did allow that he is "a Bulls guy” and dished on how he handles work- family balance: “I never miss dinner with them at 6:30 pm - even if I have to go back down to the Oval for work later in the evening.” That's about as personal as he got.
Why would the president do a Reddit AMA? Obama’s used social media before to connect with voters, previously answering questions on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and a Google+ Hangout.
“This is an example of how technology and the internet can empower the sorts of conversations that strengthen our democracy over the long run,” he wrote as he ended the chat. “AND REMEMBER TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER.”
Or, as user Darknessthatisnot mused, “he probably has something to promote.” At which point the thread digressed into a debate over a possible Obama-branded cologne.
*While Obama did not provide the recipe, as several commenters have noted, he said "it will be out soon!"
(Kirsten Salyer is the social media editor for Bloomberg View. Follow her on Twitter.)