We Are the Nerds is a book about the birth and tumultuous life of REDDIT, the alien logoed website also known as the front page of the internet. A website that billions of people use every day, and have come to love. Reddit is known for one major scandal (called “The Fappening”) and thousands of minor ones that occur under its domain almost every day. From explicit revenge pictures to a suicide of a co-founder, from becoming a place for people to interact all over the world and with different professions to previously being a place known for death threats and blatant misogyny; Reddit has come a long way since it’s inception, founded in 2005 by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian.
Recently in view of the Black Lives Matter movement, Reddit banned the subreddit r/the_Donald. Known for its misogynistic and white supremacist views, this subreddit played a major if not crucial role in the election campaign for the present POTUS Donald Trump, though this banning did not attract much media attention, the same thing 5 years ago would’ve caused a stir all over the world. Reddit has had a long journey from being a site full of say anything you want with zero repercussions to now becoming a relatively more wholesome website catering to a larger domain of users, a huge step from its initial mostly male American audience during the early days. Reddit was built on the foundations of free speech behind the mask of anonymity which it has still maintained but now has stricter policies and a larger fanbase. I am also a sub-product of this long and tumultuous change.
I’ve been a ‘lurker’ on Reddit since late 2016, I’ve seen it go through a good amount of scandals, an expected amount from a website of its stature. This website was built in 2005 and has now become the third most popular website in America and gets around 46.7 million searches every day and consists of billions of dedicated users. I’ve made a few friendships on this website as well as had amazing discussions with people all across the world during these coronavirus holidays. Thus, when the popular book subreddit r/books posted about their book pick for the month of June, I was instantly invested.
Though I could go on about Reddit for 10 more paragraphs, let’s get down to the book. This 500+ page novel covers everything Reddit has faced since its birth to 2018. It’s quite clear that the author had special access to the founders, thus birthing a book extremely thorough and well researched. Told from the perspective of Christine herself, she aptly captures the point of view of all founders quite well according to my own research (which consisted of stalking Alexis Ohanian’s twitter and reading through Steve Huffman’s interviews) and delivers a relatively unbiased view on the whole situation. Though her gratitude for this access can be seen at unnecessary places in the form of praise for the founders, the experience of the book is not hampered at all.
The book is separated into four parts, mostly according to its 4 CEOs and the respective major scandals they’ve faced. It of course deals with the professional life of its employees (who were less than 15 for a major part of the book) but also describes their personal lives to some extent. From the emotional toll the “Fappening” scandal took on their lives to having to move at a month’s notice due to an unstable CEO, the book covers pretty much everything.
Reddit was a Y Combinator (one of the major startup incubators in the world today) baby, thus with it’s growth the reader not only sees the growth of this startup itself, there are certain parts and cameos made by various different startups, some serving as competitors to others proving to be helpful and friendly. From JustinTV’s birth which is nowadays known as Twitch to Hipmunk, Digg, and 4chan’s gradual decline, the reader gets to have that wholesome San Francisco startup experience of the early 2010s.
Thus, I’d like to end by saying that I highly recommend this book to every startup enthusiast or entrepreneur looking to venture into the world of the internet; this book though telling the story of Reddit most importantly gives the moral of how to handle something you didn’t know you would have to. It’s also a gold mine for every Reddit user out there, from getting to relive the April Fool’s prank christen The Space to seeing all the great things Reddit has done in its history. This book is the one non-fiction that needs to be on your to-read list.
PS: I now totally understand why Serena Williams (yes the tennis GOAT) married Alexis Ohanian and will never reference him as Mr. Williams ever again.