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I read the blog, I re-read it, I made notes and re-read it again, I walked away and then re-read it for a fifth and sixth time. I still found none of my concerns addressed (see end).

First, there will always be a part of me that loves Stack Exchange. It has been therapy for me and given me the opportunity to meet the characters of the Python room. Even if many of the ones I worked with, many of those closest to my field, have left - I still have fun with the Data Scientists, Physicists who claim not to be programmers (even if their Py knowledge is insane), and Human or Canine Ninjas, and it has directly help me progress in my own education.


I have sssooo many points, I cannot make them all. So I will simply start with Jobs: I have never, in all my contract work, found a single job using SO and only two leads, from the start of SO.Jobs, offering in my area/field. I'd wonder if that's just my area but I still see nothing for developers, no data scientists, no data engineers (again, my field), no jobs, no anything in the technical field within your own job posting - linked within the Blog. The jobs are primarily marketing people and sales peoples. So, I'm sorry SE is not likely a place you would find us applying - those of us in the actually field of computer science, information systems, and information technology. Have you forgotten your heart? Have you forgotten you were built by developers? engineers? IT people? IS people? those of us who live, breath, and on good weeks even taste what it is to be in the industry of technology?

I am now in my 20th (not consecutive, there was a break for war) year in the IT/IS industry. I have begun teaching others just starting on their journey. A question I keep finding myself asking is: "Should I point them towards SO?". I don't mean this in the sense of "will they use SO to cheat?" but in the sense that I will give my students as many advantages as I can and "IS SO AN ADVANTAGE?". Once, this would be an easy call - now? The welcoming initiative, the way it was conducted, the lack of calls for developers in a system that almost begs for data people, for web developers, looking at a system that is losing questions more rapidly than has been acknowledged (2018: a year in asking and answering) - why would I point them towards SO? Just why would I point them to something that is losing its prominence and not even looking for people within the fields they aspire to and I live in. None of these are addressed.

Finally, I still have seen nothing from higher up on how it is treating its current userbase. Until I see that or a change within posts like this which truly acknowledges this (not with words - we are long past that and I will not forget - but within hiring, within corporate structure) it is impossible to trust anything said by the company.

TLDR;

SE no longer represents developers, data engineers, data scientists, or other coders. Its sub-sites (including SO) may but SE as a corporation has lost its connection with the IT/IS/Technology community and posts like this which link to Job offerings by SE which completely lack mid or higher technical positions (with only one entry-level IT position listed) - just point to how far away they've drifted from their original audience.

I tried to post this to the blog but comments are either disabled or otherwise filtered such that this will not get through, so I have posted here. If there is a question it is this:

How will SE address its disregard to current users and lack of focus on the IT/IS industry which was once its heart?

Earlier stated Concerns about SE policy (please don't upvote on meta unless you agree, "I said what I mean, I mean what I said" agree/disagree as you will):

  • 1
    @pizzastaticvoidmain I've commented on that in one of the linked concerns (direct link to comment). The problem is not about welcoming or not-welcoming anymore - its about is SE useful, is it an advantage to use it, is it better than other sites out there anymore? – JGreenwell Jan 19 at 5:32
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    I'm half certain there's been developers hired recently, and there were ads before for them. – Journeyman Geek Jan 19 at 5:49
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    @JourneymanGeek the article references (directly) these type of job postings (and I am certain there were recent layoffs). If they are not actually offered - why reference them? Personally, I don't like being lied to (and pointing someone to a non-existent opportunity is lying) but beyond that it points towards the possibility of an out-of-touch executive group. Hence, the question. – JGreenwell Jan 19 at 5:53
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    I actually think David's pretty much a long time SE employee, runs the engineering side of things and at least a little hands on. Its actually pretty interesting he wrote it, rather than say marketing or Joel – Journeyman Geek Jan 19 at 6:34
  • What do you mean by "losing questions more rapidly than has been acknowledged"? The rate of incoming questions has dropped? – Peter Mortensen Jan 19 at 9:42
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    @JGreenwell regarding If they are not actually offered - why reference them? > The impression I got from the blog post is that it's discussing hiring plans for the whole of 2019, not the current job listings. – Tinkeringbell Jan 19 at 10:06
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    Let's be fair: it's certainly not the focus, but there is some acknowledgement/recognition of existing users in the blog "Finally, if you’re already a member of the community, THANK YOU..." "One thing we’ve heard loud and clear from the community is that we need to also address a lot of existing bugs and community debt." I appreciated this. – Josh Caswell Jan 19 at 17:38
  • @PeterMortensen its referenced in the linked year in asking and answering – JGreenwell Jan 19 at 17:41
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    @JoshCaswell They've said that before - I am personally deaf to it now. I still look and see this changing focus, see the lack of jobs which could actually improve SE (in-line with the feature requests and concerns of the current userbase), and then feel it is another empty thank you because actions do not support the statement. Add to that the inability to actually comment on the blog with a point towards meta (which we've been told they don't listen to). for me I'm at my last try. – JGreenwell Jan 19 at 17:45
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    Fair enough; I wouldn't presume to tell you what your response should be to any of this. And I agree: words are one thing, actions another -- we'll see what is actually done. But even the words have been lacking for a while, so -- for me -- it's a small but positive step. – Josh Caswell Jan 19 at 17:49
  • Just to add - There's an ad for community manager up as of Jan 2019. – Journeyman Geek Jan 29 at 0:26
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As noted in some of the comments on Journeyman Geek's answer, my role recently changed from "CTO" to "President and CTO". This is a made-up title that means that I'm now responsible for the entire exec team (engineering, product, marketing, sales, finance, etc) and putting together our plan for 2019, which is why I wrote the post.

A few things are different this year than previous years that maybe speak to your concerns:

  1. We're hiring a bunch, especially in engineering. Last year was a rebuilding year on the business side -- we had to fix a bunch of things to get ourselves into a better financial position. We did that, and now we're ready to start growing again. The only reason you don't see dev jobs on our hiring page is because whenever we post dev jobs we get more applications than we can handle. As of this moment we have... 373 applications to our dev job listing that we're still trying to sort through. As soon as we work that queue down, we'll post the job for a week or two and get another few hundred applications.
  2. We're putting more emphasis on dev community work. With the business side in much better shape, we're able to grow the team that works on public Q&A features. We're hiring for that team right now. We're also investing heavily in Stack Overflow for Teams & Enterprise, and a lot of that work spills back over into the community because they're working on the core Q&A engine (it's all the same codebase).
  3. We're working on making the community easier to use and more welcoming, which is about focusing on devs. This one you might not agree with me on, but I deeply believe that in order for the community to grow, we have to make it easier to use and encourage people to join who right now feel excluded. The overwhelming tendency of internet communities, especially technical ones, is to become more insular and hard on new users ("RTFM!"), and we have to actively work to resist that. So we're going to keep working on this, but also staff up a related effort to work on mod tools & expert user experience that's parallel to the Welcome Wagon effort.
  4. I'm... President?. I don't want to overstate my own value here, I'm still just one person and the real people making a difference are all the different people who work here, but I do think the fact that Joel chose me for this role (with my dev background) speaks to our belief that the dev community is at the heart of this company.

To the general feeling of being ignored and undervalued, I hear you. We haven't made community work enough of a priority the past few years, and I aim to fix that. It won't be immediate because it involves staffing a few teams back up while still supporting the business side (because we have to stay in business or there won't be a community), but change is in the air.

  • 4
    While this is somewhat heartening, I can't say I'm all that enthusiastic about needing to have yet more patience. After the debacles last year that made curators feel thoroughly ignored, (rammed through New Contributor icon, anybody?) and all the focus on Twitter PR not helping in the slightest in that, I'm just about out of trust. I've got maybe one more push left before I write off SE entirely. You're just not the company I joined so many years ago, and that disappoints me greatly. – fbueckert Jan 22 at 15:02
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    I appreciate these honest insights. On the other hand, I can imagine some disappointment on the part where "we have to [...] encourage people to join who right now feel excluded", while at the same time our valuable veteran users are feeling excluded with the system being made constantly harder to keep them in. Not implying that this is easy to tackle, but one would hope greater changes by first admitting that feeling unwelcome in the site happens on multiple directions, not just towards new users or underrepresented groups. – E_net4 Jan 22 at 15:08
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    Thank you for chiming in! I'd like to point out one thing about the "feeling unwelcome" part. While I'm willing to believe that women and PoC feel insecure on SO... the same will hold for the nerdy white boy who gets bullied in school. Please don't make the Welcome wagon specific about minorities, but instead make it about all people regardless of skin color, gender identity, etc. – S.L. Barth Jan 22 at 15:09
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    This was one sentence in a larger answer, but I'm going to amplify it: "So we're going to keep working on this, but also staff up a related effort to work on mod tools & expert user experience that's parallel to the Welcome Wagon effort." The current plan to help people feel less excluded has two prongs: 1. New user experience and 2. Existing awesome expert power user experience. In brief, we need to relieve the tension everywhere. Tension stresses people out, and stressed-out people miscommunicate (all of us, employees included). – hairboat Jan 22 at 15:17
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    It's true that Welcome Wagon to date has been completely focused on brand new users, and that's excluded things that the folks here need in order to function and feel like a valued part of the community. David's describing a plan to address that exclusion this year. I know "just you wait" is something these communities have heard too many times already, but I hope some of the changes are working their way out into daylight. Like David said, change is in the air! (But you're forgiven if you don't want to take a deep sniff... it hasn't smelled so good in recent years.) – hairboat Jan 22 at 15:18
  • @hairboat rearding the "expert power user experience" side, I tried meta.stackexchange.com/q/286057/6309 in Oct. 2016. So far... crickets. – VonC Jan 23 at 12:56
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I don't work at SE – and I've complained pretty loudly in the past about the focus on careers. I've gotten a few sentiments from folk who work here though. I'd also say – David's been on SE for ages primarily on the engineering side. I actually think it's interesting he wrote it – as a long time employee at the pointy end of the engineering stick, rather than marketing. (I got informed he's the president and CTO in the comments - which adds more weight, but also that this is someone intimately involved in what he's talking about)

  1. The blog's primarily marketing. It's aimed at selling the product, and for the most part, the product that makes SE money is Careers (though less so), channels and hosted SE instances and ads. We're not the target audience.

  2. Feels a lot like we're in the middle of a course correction. While SE isn't huge, it's not small enough to go "Hey, we need to suddenly change things".

  3. Hiring takes time – the layoffs were a year ago, and things have suffered from it. I for one am keeping an eye on the "work here" page. It's probably heavy on "manager"/"Lead" type jobs, cause those sectors are stuff that needs people, and they can build a team around that. I for one am expecting to see more QA end jobs there.

I do see UX jobs, product managers, information security (which is a new thing for SE)... The enterprise sales jobs probably reflect the fact that that's growing. The management level stuff reflects that, well it's growing, and they'll be the ones working out what's needed – especially in roles that haven't been needed that much.

I'd love to see more devs, more CMs and such but I don't think that's something that will turn up immediately right after such an announcement.

I'm not going to say "All is good" – but the noises we're hearing from SO blogs (marketing focus aside) have been better than they have been in a few years. While it's for them to win back lost trust - I don't think it'll be overnight.

  • That course correction is what I am thinking too - and I would accept an answer from SE that says "we are moving away from what was once our focus" but I haven't really seen this actually stated. Put another way, it kinda feels like the old corporate America (re: where I grew up in the 80s-90s) policy of promising and promising and promising something to groups you want to work harder so they will continue to do so but with the clear intent of never giving that something (features, usable mobile design, tooling, etc...) to a group. If the focus has changed - I wish they'd just say so. – JGreenwell Jan 19 at 17:39
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  • I think.that has been shown, not told. The messaging has changed from being careers centric. Even the layoffs last year were heavily on the sales side. A lot of recent work has been on Q&A. Actually a lot of recent issues have been with communication and folks have been working on that. – Journeyman Geek Jan 19 at 22:23
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    You do know that David is the president of the company, as well as the CTO, right? (not rhetorical, I'm not sure we did the best job of announcing that) – Tim Post Jan 22 at 13:32
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    .... Someone might have not. I mean, I keep track of these things a little, and apparently I totally missed that .... despite someone mentioning it apparently. – Journeyman Geek Jan 22 at 13:43
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    Am I right in estimating that the post might have seemed a bit more impactful if you were aware that it was the president of the company laying out a broad explanation of what we hope to accomplish this year, and not just an employee giving another peek behind the curtains? – Tim Post Jan 22 at 13:46
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    Actually - no. I literally wrote this thinking he was the Vice President of Engineering, and felt that gave it bigger weight (Someone corrected me, but apparently I missed about half of that). That said, I'm fond of vices of both sorts and engineering soo.... Presumably for the original poster, I suppose it gives it more weight. – Journeyman Geek Jan 22 at 13:48
  • @TimPost I was not until he posted his answer to this question with point 4....really, I even watch the blog and completely missed that (and yes that would have at least given the announcement more weight) – JGreenwell Jan 23 at 16:51
1

To add to David's answer, I feel like we finally have good problems.

What exactly do I mean by that? Well, moving slowly because you're in the process of seeking and hiring folks for roles, some of them incredibly difficult to fill, is a really good problem to have.

Why is that a good problem to have? Because you're moving with the confidence of knowing what you're going to do nine steps from now and the only thing that remains commensurate is finding and hiring the right people. There isn't any more "well, if this does well as we think it should, we can ... (yadda yadda)."

Abby was saying in comments that this time we're asking you to wait is a bit different than previous times. I think her point is important enough to amplify, hence this answer.

I can't lay out a firm hiring roadmap, or exactly what parts of open roles makes them difficult to fill, or even the order that we might need to fill them for everything to come together (one might, after all, want to make a specific hire after hiring someone more apt at interviewing such candidates, for instance). But I can say, we have a solid plan that I am very excited to help David execute, and I'm really excited about us bringing on more folks to make it happen.

You'll see additional evidence of priorities refocusing way sooner than later, but since I'd rather surprise you than disappoint you, I'm going to stop there. I will say that I have been here since 2008, I served as your elected moderator for 4+ years, and have been in senior management at this company for about the same amount of time. I feel really good about what's coming up.

And, well, the people that tend to be good about fixing all the problems tend to be the ones doing it, instead of running around the Internet yodeling about fixing all the problems. That pretty accurately describes how David has been handling his demotion to President and CTO, though I have no idea how well he can or can't yodel.

It's safe to feel optimistic. I'll end it there for now.

  • 2
    I'm pretty sure OSHA might have some rules about yodeling – Journeyman Geek Jan 22 at 16:21
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    @JourneymanGeek The company sent all employees some really expensive earplugs as a holiday gift. – Tim Post Jan 22 at 16:23
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    I am an excellent yodeler, by which I of course mean that knowing nothing about it I assume that I am great at it – David Fullerton Jan 22 at 16:24
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    "I'd rather surprise you than disappoint you, I'm going to stop there" I find statements like that to be decidedly unhelpful. If something is genuinely as close to release as you say, then why would it be "disappointing" to tell us what it is? Unless you're that concerned about it actually being released, in which case, you shouldn't be saying that something is coming when you're not even confident enough in its release to tell us what it is. – Nicol Bolas Jan 23 at 6:20

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