It's happened to me before, with seemingly unimportant things, and yet it really did hurt. For instance... Feeling like a part of the community of a small, indy computer game; a vibrant community, made up of people who loved the game and supported each other beautifully. Then the game was sold off to some big company and taken in a new, flavourless but "easy", direction, so as to attract more players, even though the original spirit of the game and its community was lost. Of course both the old and the new owners wanted to maximise the profit from their product. I even still play the thing sometimes for kicks. But those of us who were emotionally invested in the game's community, and who had contributed to the success that made its expansion possible, were hung out to dry. Conclusion: don't invest emotionally in a product that will be managed according to profit-maximisation priorities.

The current kerfuffle on Stack Exchange has made me ask the same question about SE. I've only started being active since a few months ago, but I had started to become emotionally invested in being a part of the writing.stackexchange community. This even made me feel more at home when finding information on other SE sites, to which I'm not able to contribute answers.

And then SE Inc. shows that it really does not care about its community. I don't actually know what happened with Monica Cellio; perhaps she did exhibit some bigotry that I would find utterly unacceptable if I knew the details. But even in that (seemingly unlikely) case, SE Inc. has still treated all of us like low-value drones that make up a small, replaceable part of their product. At least, so it seems to me. No accountability, no communication with the community, violation of trust, and, most importantly, we have no agency when it comes to determining the future of our community.

Why should I engage with a community that is owned by a for-profit company that treats it as a part of its product and will always prioritise it less than its profits?

I'm kinda hoping somebody can provide a convincing counterargument...

[EDIT] So, the answer has been a rather clear yes, and after a few months of high SE activity, I'm mostly out now, just checking now and then to see if anything has changed (not hopeful)

  • 21
    "Why should I engage with a community ...?" I've been asking myself this question whole last week... Oct 3, 2019 at 17:09
  • 6
    You should endeavour to do stay away as much as you can before you get addicted and ultimately hurt by that. There is no community, just a company that sucks people in ans spits them out when they are done.
    – user619714
    Oct 3, 2019 at 17:17
  • 8
    Well, we used to pretend there was no for-profit company. There was just the community, moderated in large by the community itself. Which went pretty well until all hell broke loose.
    – Mast
    Oct 3, 2019 at 17:20
  • 13
    Interesting topic. Stack Exchange (Electronics in particular) had a huge amount of influence on forming me as an engineer that I'm today. I think that I can safely say, that I learned as much on SE as I did in the university, and pretty much all of the skills I'm now using on my job came from SE. However, over the years, the communities I was involved with changed and disappeared (thanks a lot Welcome Wagon!), and now I noticed that I tend to come to SE mostly for drama. With the latest issues, I think I've had my fill of that too.
    – AndrejaKo
    Oct 3, 2019 at 17:38
  • 12
    "Should I consciously protect myself from becoming too invested in the Stack Exchange community?" - yes.
    – Zoe
    Oct 3, 2019 at 18:14
  • 5
    Like OP, I'm new to Stack Exchange. I've visited before, to read and enjoy, and eventually decided to create an account recently. I've only posted a dozen times or so, but I found it to be an interesting and enjoyable experience (downvotes included: we can all learn some lessons). Now, however, like OP, I have my doubts about the site. So much so, that I think this may well be my last post. I need to find a better, more inclusive place to visit (which is ironic).
    – user569748
    Oct 3, 2019 at 22:16
  • 4
    Definitely. It's just a website. It's not a community, as there's a "master-slave" relationship with the staff. You're allowed to provide quality content for free to the site, but any mistakes will be dealt with harshly. Communities and investors don't usually mix. Besides, maybe it's time to evolve. People don't use MySpace anymore, so why should SE live forever?
    – Kayaman
    Oct 4, 2019 at 5:54
  • 4
    @Kayaman Because otherwise the market would face a drastic shortage of developers that know how to exit vim... (stackoverflow.com/questions/11828270/…)
    – ChatterOne
    Oct 10, 2019 at 11:01

4 Answers 4


Recent events make me (I believe) uniquely suited to address your question. I haven't talked about it much publicly, but I didn't resign as a moderator due to personal pain, nor do I think the events that led to my resignation preclude me from participating in the network.

The simple fact is that the new CoC, and the heavy-handed way the network has chosen to illustrate its use, appear to take away one of the most powerful tools available to any curator, which is the freedom to walk away from the conversation. I haven't waited for clarification from the company, because the company has already made it clear in so many ways that this is their new direction. Since any attempt at discussing the relevant issues is only met with forceful rebuff, I am left with no other options.

So those are my reasons. What are yours?

The calculus is simple. Do the benefits you derive from being part of the network exceed the risks and the drawbacks? Alternatively (if you're the more altruistic sort), does the good you bring to the world by participating in the network (imperfect as it is) exceed the potential harm being caused by the corporate overlords that host your work?

Only you can answer that question.

I'll leave you with this: it's always better for your growth as a human being to wrestle with something important and risk the pain of loss, than it is to wrap yourself in a cocoon that insulates you from all hurt but also deprives you of the possibility of experiencing true joy.

  • 43
    This answer adequately addresses my biggest fear about the CoC; that trying to avoid conflict is conflict. That a misunderstanding or mislabeling or faux pas is enough to slander a person and strip them of their legitimacy. There is seemingly no warning, no exit, and no discussion. You have to engage and you have to communicate using not widely understood language because of preference. It's not actionable. You can't even seek reprieve or forgiveness. I'm all for compassion through mutual teaching, not punishment and alienation.
    – user622361
    Oct 3, 2019 at 20:51
  • 8
    I have linked this post and mentioned your name here as evidence that I am not alone in having issues with the nature of the CoC (not the specific content in this case but the way it coerces action), as well as mentioned you in in my resignation. Please let me know if you are uncomfortable with that or if I'm miss-representing you. Obviously I don't presume to think we agree on everything across the board, only in noting there is a root cause to note beyond the hubbub created by mishan
    – Caleb
    Oct 7, 2019 at 11:55

Why should I engage with a community that is owned by a for-profit company that treats it as a part of its product and will always prioritise it less than its profits?

To entertain yourself.

Basically, you should do just like SE inc., which treats you like a disposable resource: treat the network like a disposable resource too. Answering interesting questions is fun? Well, don't refrain: do it and have fun. You're doing it because you like to see your rep grow? Ok. You have a difficult problem that could be solved by asking here? Well, just take advantage of the network.

However, you probably shouldn't invest anything emotional here (or on any place else on the internet, but that's my personal opinion). Because you'll be bound to experience deception, whether it's right now or in ten years. Company's policy will change, community will change - or you will change - and at some point, you most likely won't find what you found entertaining anymore.

But it isn't really a problem, and there is no reason to avoid participating if you are just doing it for instantaneous benefits you gain from it. Also, binding some emotional relationships with other individuals you came to know here isn't that much of a problem: you don't take more risks in doing so than by making friends in the real world (and you can still keep that relation in case SE is taken down, provided you have other means of contacting them). But binding an emotional relationship with the network as a whole, or with SE inc. is definitely something I wouldn't do.

So, enjoy the moment, but just don't expect anything long term, and don't expect anything from the network in return. This way, you won't be disappointed.

  • 1
    Doesn't what you're suggesting almost demolish the very concept of "community"? Oct 3, 2019 at 18:40
  • 3
    @sesquipedalias I'm not sure a "community", especially on the internet, needs to be bound by emotional feelings to exist. Obviously, people need to share something in common, but it doesn't have to involve emotion. Maybe some people prefer to invest emotion in such communities, it's their right, but I think they need to be careful about that, for the very reasons OP mentioned in the question. On my side, I tend to reserve emotions for family and friends.
    – dim
    Oct 3, 2019 at 18:46
  • 5
    @sesquipedalias Yes, it does. Stack Exchange isn't a site for "community". It's a site where some people come and ask questions, and other people come and answer their questions; it never should've been anything more. Trying to make it a "community" is what got it into this mess.
    – Cadence
    Oct 5, 2019 at 0:47
  • @Cadence But without being a community, the quality of the questions and answers may end up being far, far lower... SE became what it was through the participation of people who cared about it deeply (and, I might note, that does not include me, I'm a recent arrival here, but I've been learning about its background) Oct 5, 2019 at 15:16

I recommend you to research the term "intentional living".

The point is: living a meaningful life is (to a certain degree) about being in charge yourself. You don't do things because you can, or because they happen to you.

You lay out a (rough) plan what you want for yourself. And then you apply an "agile" mindset: you observe how things turn out in the real world, and then you make the necessary adjustments.

In the German language the term disappointment translates to Enttäuschung. Meaning: a disappointment is the ending of a deception.

In other words: one element of disappointment is about starting with unrealistic expectations. You basically lie to yourself about all the great things that should follow out of something you do.

Long story short: step back, and consider what you can get back realistically from engaging here. And then ask yourself how much that is worth to you. Then act accordingly.

Finally: I am not saying that should never trust others, or not have expectations. But you better be aware what exactly you expect, because only then you can do that self assessment to determine who realistic your expectations are.

  • 1
    Fair enough; also thanks for the etymology of Enttäuschung : ) ... but doesn't what you're saying somewhat diminish the very concept of "community"? Since you know you can't depend on it, treat SE like something transient and not intrinsically valuable, but derive value from interacting with it, in the here and now, within the limited scope you have pre-determined... Well, that can be both fun and educational, but can it build a community? Oct 3, 2019 at 18:43
  • 1
    @sesquipedalias Fair point. Again, that boils down to the actual expectations. I think that we can't expect that relationship between company and community to work flawlessly. Or to never change. To the contrary: change is inevitable. It takes hard work to keep relationships working over time. In the end, it is intentional living. Ask yourself: what do I want to invest? What comes back that has value for me? What is the minimum I want to see from SE (and without that, I am out)? And note: the community works really nice, most of the time. The unavoidable conflict is between "us" and...
    – GhostCat
    Oct 3, 2019 at 18:52
  • 1
    The people paying the servers that serves our content. Many are drawing a line right now, and might leave if SE doesn't comply with their demands. I am not there yet, but me, too, I will carefully look into my future investments and expectations, too.
    – GhostCat
    Oct 3, 2019 at 18:54

... that treats it as a part of its product ... you are it's product, there fixed that for you.

Can you name one time in history that a unpaid workforce (even an volunteer one) ever being respected or acknowledged for their efforts by those that are financially benefiting from them?

That said, the last line of your question shows you already know the answer to your question, you just do not want to accept it.

  • 2
    The foster care home my mother lives now has 5 to 10 volunteers that basically come in multiple times per week to do what the nurses don't have time for (like talking reading sitting) with the patients. Everybody who knows them recognizes their volunteer unpaid efforts. Even on large scale: the German government has replaced the draft / mandatory draft "replacement" services with a "social volunteer" program. They recently had to bump their yearly budgets, because so many young people are willing to spend months for social services. And I do think that our society notices that.
    – GhostCat
    Oct 3, 2019 at 18:12
  • 3
    Long story short: I think you are projecting your own disappointment onto others. Because stack exchange didn't meet your expectations, you now claim that the whole world is a terrible place. And that is just irrational. There are millions of people around the globe who do make voluntary unpaid contributions. And most of the time, the people around them very well know and appreciate their efforts. You didn't answer the question, you put up a rant. Would have been an okay comment, but isn't an answer at all.
    – GhostCat
    Oct 3, 2019 at 18:15
  • 3
    And basically every day I talk to people who use stackoverflow and who damn well understand where the content they rely on is coming from.
    – GhostCat
    Oct 3, 2019 at 18:16

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