Review by Tess Tabak
In this thick tome, Christine Lagorio-Chafkin faithfully traces Reddit’s history from its 2005 inception to the present day. We Are the Nerds: The Birth and Tumultuous Life of Reddit, the Internet’s Culture Laboratory reads like a real-life version of HBO’s Silicon Valley. Caveat: real life is a bit less interesting than TV, so this book may only appeal to those with an interest in business or diehard Reddit fans.
This book is part biography of Reddit, and part a story of the company’s path from conception to corporatization, and its rocky journey towards becoming self-sustaining (turning a profit). Chafkin touches upon the problematic aspects of Reddit: users who choose to share revenge porn, child porn, as well as the harassment and doxing of women, and so on. However, while she frowns on these, she doesn’t dive deeply into the ethics of the site. For the most part, this is a faithful biography of Reddit’s founders and of the company itself. It’s organized event by event, going through every significant event in Reddit’s history. Some of these are intriguing – I didn’t know that Reddit played a part in organizing the Daily Show’s Rally to Restore Sanity, for example.
However, Chafkin goes into what was (for me) a boring amount of detail about the personal lives of the founders. Unless you already care about Alexis Ohanian, Steve Huffman, and Aaron Swartz, this book goes into way too much detail – like, we get updates on the health of a woman Alexis Ohanian once dated briefly in 2004. They had a rocky relationship! I’m going to file that under ‘things I didn’t know I didn’t want to know, but now I do, oh well’. Continue reading