By this point, Reddit AMAs — in which the platform’s users ask typically high-profile individuals whatever they want, hence the “Ask Me Anything” designation — have become newsworthy in their own right. That’s largely thanks to the format — simple but malleable, it’s a good fit for actors, Silicon Valley CEOs and presidents alike. The platform also serves as a time capsule, preserving what most fascinated the public about a certain individual at a particular moment in time.
Not all Reddit AMAs are created equal, of course. (And because there are so many, blink, and you’ll miss one.) It’s only April, but already the platform has drawn some big names this year. Here are five moments worth highlighting.
1. Gary Vaynerchuk offers quick-fire advice on multitasking and entrepreneurship.
A best-selling author, serial entrepreneur, digital marketing guru, vlogger and professional speaker at conferences around the globe, Gary Vaynerchuk wears many hats. What connects all his endeavors? Sheer hustle. The man seems to be everywhere at once, tirelessly pumping energy into a rotating list of simultaneous projects.
In large part to this ubiquity, he’s become something of an inspirational figure to new and aspiring entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out how they can start their own company while holding down a day job and maintaining some semblance of work-life balance. If Vaynerchuk can run multiple businesses, make time for his family all while blasting promotional material across his many social platforms, they can surely figure out a way to make it work.
In a Reddit AMA on March 7, Vaynerchuk offered a speed-round on entrepreneurship, tackling topics such as value of an MBA (“if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s a bad ROI”), his advice for college students who want to start their own businesses after school (“Make sure you use these next four years to learn a lot because you will never have this much downtime again) and how to connect with an investor on Twitter (read the “last 100 tweets that he or she has put out to create context around what they care about / find out what they do outside of business”).
But perhaps the most compelling answer — or at least the one most in-line with his “hustle-or-go-home” brand — was his response a question posed by a man who, in addition to having quit his day job, said he was working on two startups, while raising a 4-year-old and 2-year-old with his wife. “Am I spreading myself to [sic] thin and should I drop shit and focus on one project at a time?” the user asked.
“I don’t think so,” Vaynerchuk responded. “I’m going on intuition here…I think you should drop leisure, and go for it. There are moments and times in an entrepreneur’s career when you have to sacrifice leisure for upside.”
Which is Vaynerchuk’s entrepreneurial message in a nutshell: cut away all the fat (the Netflix binges, that extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning, all other non-essential downtime) and make every second count.
2. Bill Gates adds his voice to the growing chorus of visionaries concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence.
Gates is becoming a prolific presence on Reddit AMA-er. In the Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder’s appearance on the channel on Mar. 8, his fourth, he briefly touched upon his views on the future of artificial intelligence.
As with Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, he’s concerned about its applications. In response to a user who asked if he was in favor or regulating AI “before it is too late,” Gates responded that while he hasn’t seen a “concrete proposal” on how this regulation would work, he’s open to the idea. “It is worth discussing because I share the view of Musk and Hawking that when a few people control a platform with extreme intelligence it creates dangers in terms of power and eventually control,” he continued. (In Jan. 2015, Musk and Hawking signed an open letter, along with hundreds of others, which warned that despite its potential, artificial intelligence may pose a greater threat to humanity than nuclear weapons.)
In addition to AI, Gates delved in a variety of topics including his reading style (he has a strict policy of always finishing a book once he’s started it), his experience with hoverboards (“I’ve never tried one”), and how long he thinks he’ll continue working at the Gates’ Foundation (until he’s 90, or “for another 30 years assuming my health holds up”).
3. Steve Wozniak illustrates he’s an all-around decent guy.
In an AMA on Mar. 16, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak made a compelling case that his depiction in Danny Boyle’s recent biopic Steve Jobs is true to life: the guy is two parts passionate genius, one part teddy bear.
While his criticism of the Apple Watch got the most media play — “I mean, I love my Apple Watch, but it’s taken us into a jewelry market,” he wrote, adding that “this isn’t the company that Apple (AAPL) was originally, or the company that really changed the world a lot” — the connecting factor throughout his responses was a clear passion for and excitement about technology, combined with a winning affability.
Despite his reservations about the Apple Watch, here’s Wozniak on Tim Cook. Both genuine-seeming and genial, it gives you a sense of why “Woz” has developed an avid fan base:
I’m very approving of Tim Cook, because every time we have a new iOS update, I’m very happy that it’s doing things that really affect people. Like transferring calls from my phone to my computer, etc. I really love even the Airplay, and all that. So, I love the software, and I love the hardware, and nothing’s letting me down. So I approve very strongly of Tim Cook and the new Apple. I dearly miss Steve Jobs too, but, that’s all.
All in all, the AMA adds evidence to Wozniak’s reputation as a reserved but happy guy (“I like a nice, quiet, simple life. I grew up shy. I’m more into products than I’m into socializing”), who cares more about his relationships than status (“I like to live a life where kinda everyone likes me. I’m just not bad. If somebody is bad to me, I’m still good to them”), and thus spends his days happily tinkering with his collection of tech devices (“I buy a lot of prominent gadgets, including different platforms of computers and mobile devices, because everything different excites me”).
Lastly, it hints that while Apple will always be Woz’s greatest legacy, it may not be his only one:
I had a start-up company to make a little device that would be very low cost, you know like $30 in the grocery store, and you could just pop in anywhere and the battery would last for a year and it would be a little detection device that would notify you if your dog got out of the fence at home, or where your car is located if you forget, and I failed. I failed on technology grounds of cost, size, and the amount of power usage.
But I swear to god, I just keep thinking all the time about the technology advances that would have to be done to make that device possible. So maybe I’ll even get back to it someday.
4. Palmer Luckey hypes up virtual reality’s reach (and apologizes for the company’s pricing snafu regarding its headsets).
On Jan. 6 Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR, used his AMA to apologize for confusion around the price of the consumer model of the Oculus Rift headset. Fans, based on a quote made by Luckey in September, in which he said the device would cost “roughly in [the] $350 ballpark,” were incensed when the company revealed its actual $599 price tag.
“I handled the messaging poorly,” he said in his first response on the platform. While this admission got a lot of press coverage, Luckey’s broad vision for the device and VR technology in general is more interesting.
Despite popular belief, “the majority of time spent right now in Gear VR is video and experiences, not games,” he said, adding that the consumer versions of the Oculus headset and remote were built to appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike:
“We designed the Oculus Remote to be simple and intuitive input device for navigating VR experiences, especially when a fully-featured gamepad doesn’t make sense.”
5. Designer Rebecca Minkoff discusses the future of fashion tech.
In a joint AMA with Sandra Lopez on Feb. 24, Intel’s vice president of business development for wearables, fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff outlined her vision for how fashion and wearable technology will intertwine. Primarily, she hopes that smaller and more powerful chips will end the era of clunky gadgets, in favor of a seamless integration between high-end fashion and technology.
She’s putting her money where her mouth is. One of the first designers to incorporate virtual reality into a runway show, Minkoff continues to experiment with ways technology and design can integrate and interact.
“I think there is a lot of potential as technology gets smaller and smaller to really think about design first and making things that a woman wants that then also help her life,” she wrote.
Added Lopez, “this year we are seeing technology and fashion converge – smart accessories, apparels as well as smart retail environments. If you go to the Minkoff store in NYC – you will see smart mirrors in the dressing room.”
Both agreed that to fully capitalize on all fashion-tech has to offer women, more are needed in STEM fields so they can design high-performance clothing that meets their needs and solves their problems.