New Reddit CEO and cofounder Steve Huffman certainly seems to be stocking his cabinet with new and valuable intelligence. A report on TechCrunch today said that the company has brought on Marty Weiner, the second employee of Pinterest and its founding engineer, on as CTO.
The most important aspect of Weiner’s work at Pinterest may have been the strides he made as the leader of the company’s spam and abuse prevention team, known internally as the Black Ops team. Weiner unveiled the fruits of the group’s labor to Wired in February: a program called Stingray that identified inappropriate or unwanted posts on the site in a matter of seconds.
Before the work of Black Ops, moderation of harmful or spammy posts took a day to achieve. After Stingray was deployed, Weiner and his team of 12 could respond to “bad behavior” among Pinterest’s 70 million users to 99.99 percent. The result was a drop in spam clicks by half, and a milliseconds-long response to bad actors on the site.
This kind of work is very in line with what Reddit is desperate to achieve since the site underwent a massive revolt in July of this year — which roughly ended with the resignation of then-CEO Ellen Pao. As one of his first moves as CEO, Huffman introduced a new policy, along with a promise for a new set of moderation tools, to help isolate or remove harmful communities and language from the site.
In terms of scale, Weiner will certainly have his work cut out for him: Reddit is the 10th most trafficked site on the internet, with roughly 150 million monthly uniques. Having an automated system to help enforce these policies, supporting moderators and curbing abusive language all at once, could stand to make Reddit a much healthier place overall.
He also doesn’t have much time to lead Reddit’s engineering team before the community may strike back again. According to a post on /r/AskReddit, moderators have agreed to maintain a hard line on when new moderation tools will be in place:
The shut down was about better communication and mod tools. The admins have given us their word. If by September 23, we do not see changes they promised (and they have not given us good communication as to why this has been happening), we will send them a written warning that we are planning on closing. By September 30, we will evaluate what the admins have told us and their actions on reddit, and based on that, decide what the appropriate actions are. If we need to shut down again, for a longer period of time, we will shut down again. The changes we expect to see are improved admin and mod communication and greater focus on mod support.
Repairing the broken structure of Reddit, which has never had a CTO before, will be a lofty task. But it’ll be interesting to see how Weiner steps up to the challenge.