Does a Reddit live chat give Obama more tech cred?

The president flexes his social media muscles again and holds an "ask me anything" session on Reddit, the ultimate geek Q&A forum. It likely earned him points with the tech set.

President Obama linked to this photo when asked for proof that he was really behind the posts from the Reddit handle PresidentObama during an "ask me anything" session. PresidentObama

Ever the tech-conscious politician, President Barack Obama today held a live Q&A session on, arguably, the geekist message board around -- Reddit.

The session may up the president's tech cred, which has already been bolstered in the past by his social media prowess and use of technology in campaigns.

Many have said that his use of social media in the 2008 election helped him get elected and just last week, Obama's campaign became the first to accept contributions via text messages.

Reddit General Manager Erik Martin said he didn't know what this would do for Obama's tech cred, but hopes the discussion will inspire other politicians to enter the world of Reddit or find other ways to directly engage with constituents. The site had been working for a while to bring the president to Reddit.

"[Reddit is] where there's a lot of people who are interested in politics and issues and the election. If he's willing to go there and engage on their turf and their sort of format, getting half an hour from the president to answer people's questions is pretty amazing," Martin said.

Redditors were ready to engage with the POTUS. One commentator noted that more than 200 questions had already been posted nine minutes into the thread going live, with the site crashing shortly after .

The conversation effectively lit up the Twittersphere as well, as people began tweeting about the Q&A, including some of their questions. Although there was no set hash tag for the roughly one hour-session.

Even with the Redditors jumping at the chance to communicate with the president, there was healthy skepticism over whether or not Obama was really the one answering questions under the the Reddit handle PresidentObama. He tried to quell suspicion by posting a link to his tweet about the session as well as a photo of him behind a laptop in a nondescript location.

Obama should have known that wouldn't be enough to prove anything to the tech-savvy crowd which has been able to create and circulate bogus photos as well as disprove them with a few clicks and key taps. Martin said Reddit was in communications with Obama's campaign to make sure it was legit.

Any doubt certainly didn't stop the questions, which ranged from unemployment, space exploration, the war on drugs, and of course, Internet freedom. The session lasted a little more than an hour , with the president signing off for dinner:

"LAST UPDATE: I need to get going so I'm back in DC in time for dinner. But I want to thank everybody at reddit for participating - this is an example of how technology and the internet can empower the sorts of conversations that strengthen our democracy over the long run. AND REMEMBER TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER - if you need to know how to register, go to Gottaregister.com. By the way, if you want to know what I think about this whole reddit experience - NOT BAD!"

(One can only assume the president was so excited by the thought of people voting this election, he had to virtually yell it by typing in all caps.)

Other political figures, including British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Congressman Barney Frank, have also been on the site for Q&A's. Martin said Reddit hopes presidential candidate Mitt Romney and those from the senate race, or even more local election candidates, will join the discussion.

"I hope that really explodes -- we have a lot of local communities on Reddit. If elected officials do AMAs or use Q&A sessions with voters, I think that's really powerful," he said.

Interestingly enough, Obama's team chose to hold this virtual appearance while the Republican National Convention is still going on. Not only could it steal some thunder in the blogging world, the stunt jabs at the Republicans, who have struggled to keep up with Obama's advances in campaigning technology.

Industry analyst Michael Gartenberg alluded to this playing of catch-up in a snarky tweet: "In response to the President's Reddit appearance several prominent members of Congress are now on MySpace and Friendster."

Updated at 4:52 p.m. PT: with more information from Reddit.

 

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