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I thought I was forever done writing lunatic feature requests on Meta, but...

Preface

As recent events have shown, there is a rift and a serious loss of trust between a significant part of the community and Stack Overflow's leadership.

Apart from the obvious triggers of this crisis, most prominently the handling of Monica Cellio's termination as a moderator, the massive explosion of discontent we witnessed over the past week is more the result of different kinds of long-simmering resentments against various general developments within the network:

  • SO has an obligation to its investors to grow; this is leading to previously unthinkable business decisions causing a great deal of frustration (eg. the rebuild of the home page, the loosening of ad guidelines to include animated ads)

  • The "old guard" of some of the most invested, highly productive, often very quality-focused users, and especially Meta where many of them tend to converge aren't integral parts of the company's vision any more, meaning the one outlet that SO's usership had to air its views and ideas in unison (rather than in surveys and such) and vote for them as a community might have no future at all, and is already getting heard even less (and it was basically not heard at all before, a cause of much frustration in itself).

  • In the same vein, this crowd, which initially created Stack Overflow, brought together by a sense community through focusing on quality and authenticity and eschewing corporate culture is finding itself... on an increasingly corporate Stack Overflow. Which was unavoidable and is not necessarily bad... but it's not for most in this deeply invested crowd.

  • Also, and perhaps much more importantly, the ever-present tension about what the Telos of Stack Overflow should be:

    • an impersonal repository of knowledge of the highest possible quality, built for future generations to reference, or

    • a place for individuals to come get help from other individuals?

    ...seems to have been resolved in favour of the latter. Almost everything we can see in terms of SO. Inc's vision for the site is about becoming a welcoming place to all levels of ability, mentoring, and collaboration. While none of these things is inherently bad, or worth less, or not worth building, and in fact perhaps the only way to make a $40M+ VC investment a thriving profitable business, they are to a degree incompatible with the idea of building a high-quality repository of knowledge.

(Many people have expressed all these issues and sentiments much better than I could during the past week and before. This is just an attempt at summarizing them.)

In summary - tensions that used to bring vibrant discussion and change seem to have become so strong that they are now threatening to break the site apart.

So what if Stack Overflow was split in two after all

  • One site tightly under SO, Inc.'s control, open to users of all or most levels of experience and with an increasing focus on helping, mentoring, nurturing, welcoming users of all levels of experience, etc. whatever SE's long-term vision is (from here on out, "Open").

  • A community-curated Stack Overflow for Advanced Questions (from here on out, "Advanced") with the express mission of being a repository of knowledge of the highest quality available to everyone rather than a help forum (although that's always part of it - I know from experience!), with certain expectations in regards to asker experience and question advancedness

... but with Advanced Stack Overflow not being just another Stack Exchange site, but retaining more independence from the rest both feature-wise and in terms of culture and self-governance, perhaps even to the point of being somewhat legally separate (yet with an indelible connection to SO, Inc.)

This could solve a lot of tensions with the community while giving SO, Inc. maximum freedom to take their product where they want to take it:

  • Feature-wise, Open Stack Overflow would be free to experiment, say, with putting way less emphasis on the reputation system (a desire that has been expressed in several places in the context of making the place more welcoming/appealing to underrepresented groups, think of that what you will) while reputation - surely not the only way to run a Q&A site but undeniably a very successful one - would stay in place on Advanced Stack Overflow as long as its leaders and community want it.

  • Or, Open SO could limit community discussion to a much more restricted level than the anarchy that is Meta, while Advanced SO would keep its Meta and could host discussions until everyone's ears bleed.

  • Advanced SO would be guaranteed the respectful, minimal level of advertising that worked for it during the past ten years, while Open SO (likely to have a lot more pageviews) would be free to experiment with any form of ads and monetization it desires without a loud community hating every bit of it.

  • Advanced SO would be free to turn away users whose technical knowledge and experience is below a certain level - much in the style of a University (but politely, you assholes!) - while Open SO would be as open to users of all levels of programming experience as it wants.

  • Open SO could experiment with, say, putting increasing focus on Facebook-style paid moderators to keep the site clean - while Advanced SO would continue to elect its community moderators as in the olden days.

  • Extreme measures like the termination of moderators could be largely in the hands of other moderators on Advanced SO (to a degree; it is unlikely SO, Inc. would give up control entirely over this. I could see something like mods getting time to sort things out before SO. Inc moves forward with a termination.) while on Open SO, the powers that be would be free to terminate moderators under whichever rules they deem correct

  • While Open SO would be free to facilitate license changes as it sees fit, the license on Advanced SO would stay unchanged until the community or its leaders decide otherwise

Think of Advanced SO as a less corporate cousin to Open SO - say Game of Throne's Wildlings to SO, Inc.'s Seven Kingdoms - with a somewhat different culture, a bit more dangerous, in the long term perhaps a bit less shiny than the premium experience that SO is right now... but genuinely useful.

Now, the architectural and legal and business relationship between an Open Stack Overflow and an Advanced Stack Overflow is of course the crux of this whole thing. It's basically impossible to make any serious suggestions in this regard without insight in what the investor situation looks like, what SO's long term goals are, what the architecture looks like, what SO, Inc. is willing to even consider, what is even remotely feasible financially, etc.

But, some possibilities of models come to mind:

  1. Advanced SO becomes a spin-off of Stack Overflow (with its own domain name, TBD given that SO, Inc. would never part with stackoverflow.com). While it would remain property of SO, Inc., its community would have certain assurances of self-governance and feature stability as described above.

  2. Advanced SO becomes an independent foundation, a bit like Wikipedia I suppose, led by a very small number of stewards (possibly coming over from SO, Inc., or ex-employees?) deciding upon the site's direction, employing a very small number of staff, owner of its domain name and the content generated there but renting all architecture and hosting from SO, Inc., effectively funneling most of the income from Advanced SO back to SO, Inc., as is just and fair and necessary. This is basically as if the Stack Overflow of ca. 2010 existed as a business unit inside a much larger corporation

  3. Advanced SO becomes an independent foundation like in the model above - BUT receives the sites' source code from SO, Inc. to host itself and undertake future development of the platform; funding itself through ad revenue and taking care of hosting, etc. This seems like the most extreme and unrealistic model: it's hard to see why SO, Inc. would ever agree to it, and how a newly independent foundation could sustain itself and pay for the several six-figure-earners that would necessary to keep the lights on - because let's be realistic, something like this would never work with volunteer effort alone. This model would be almost as hard to implement as part of the community breaking away from SO entirely and starting its own site, a humongous effort.

Obviously, in all three scenarios, Advanced SO would continue to be part of the SO family, bound by strict non-compete and stick-to-our-basic-rules clauses laid out by SO, Inc., and other obligations (likely including the CoC.)

The most difficult part probably would be the day-to-day business relationship, especially development of the Advanced SO branch of the underlying platform.

Everyday friction could be huge. Say, for example, the Advanced SO leaders want to implement a new way to deal with duplicates.

  • Under model 1, the decision whether and how this is implemented would be entirely up to SO, Inc. and likely result in the same kind of stasis as we have now, or even worse because Advanced SO would likely never be the company's main profit generator so low dev priority.

  • in model 2, the foundation might have to purchase the service of implementing the change from SO, Inc.; how realistic this is is anyone's guess.

  • under model 3, the foundation would be completely independent to implement whatever feature changes it likes... but it might be too broke to do it.

Another conflict scenario is if SO, Inc., decides that maintaining the Advanced SO branch isn't financially viable without merging feature X into it because that's what all the other sites have been upgraded to. Loads of ways that this could result in a mess.

Whichever the model, Advanced SO would probably have to live with a certain degree of scarcity in terms of feature development and perhaps even maintenance and stability. (We're used to the former but are VERY spoiled on the two latter points, thanks to an excellent and extremely well-paid team.)

Also, all these models would create fault lines and possible future power struggles that may, at the end, create new and even bigger and more destructive conflicts - say if a new CEO at some point decides Advanced SO is a liability and needs to be brought back into the fold. There could also still be conflicts over CoC changes in which SO, Inc. would have the final say. Also, under models 1 and 2, if SO Inc. were ever to fail financially and be taken apart and sold at a discount price to the startup equivalent of a scrapyard, all bets would be off anyway and Advanced SO would become whatever the scrapyard's owner tells it to become.

Also, a split like this would not magically solve the problems the site has, neither those on the Open SO end nor on the Advanced one.

  • Comments on questions are often snarky and drive people away, and this is not just because "all new questions are garbage". Advanced SO would have to have very steadfast, community-minded stewards to not devolve into a place dominated by the most aggressively quality-oriented folks, as important as their contributions are to content quality. This proposal is not to build a treehouse for toxic behaviours.

  • Meanwhile, Open SO would still have to find a way to be welcoming to all while not drowning in extremely basic questions and causing frustration all round.

But all these problems have been simmering for years anyway and the site isn't any closer to finding a satisfactory solution to them - so split up the opposite poles and let them try and solve their own problems without constantly blockading each other.

It would be preferable to the situation we have now, in which SO Corporate has all the power but (I'm assuming) can't make all the moves it would like to because of a vocal community that wants things to go a different direction, while that community feels it has no power at all and is constantly frustrated about a steady drip of changes that are taking the place further away from what they believe used to make it great.

Jeff Atwood once described the Stack Exchange network like this:

Stack is kind of like a scalpel. It's a really great tool, but it's kind of dangerous. When people asked me for it, I was like, "Eh, I don't want to give you the scalpel, because you're going to hurt yourself, and you're going to hurt your users with this tool because they're going to be angry that you shut down their questions. But that's how it's supposed to work, right?

This approach to Q&A can create awful experiences for new and inexperienced programmers, and the impulse to build something that doesn't create those experiences is noble.

Nevertheless, the scalpel has demonstrated that it can be very successful and create valuable content. It deserves to live long-term somewhere in the SO ecosystem.

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    +1 similar to EL&U (English Language & Usage) and ELL (English Language for Learners)... however, EL&U still receives its fair share of low quality questions because visitors find "us" first. How would you overcome this inconvenience if SO was split into two? Would hi-rep users be prepared to post answers on both sites? – Mari-Lou A Oct 5 at 23:30
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    @Mari-LouA Closing would be very quick (and fairly low threshold) on the advanced site; there'd be a HUGE pointer pointing to the "nice" Stack Overflow. Also SO corporate would definitely hold on to the stackoverflow.com name so the advanced site would be the second thing most people find – Pëkka Oct 5 at 23:31
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    @011358smell yeah, this would definitely do nothing to address the unsolved issues on the other sites (including SO's extreme heavy-handedness and ham-fistedness in this crisis). It'd be an out for Stack Overflow proper only. – Pëkka Oct 5 at 23:32
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    I am sure similar ideas and proposals have been made on SO in the past. What happened to them? Could you post a few links? – Mari-Lou A Oct 5 at 23:36
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    @Robert this isn't a duplicate of that question because this proposal outlines a degree of long-term independence from the rest of the network (feature stability, independent moderation, perhaps even more) that is not achievable with just another SE site. – Pëkka Oct 5 at 23:41
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    @Mari-LouA Variations of "let's separate the site into one for hard and one for easy questions" have been suggested many times, and always rejected maily with the argument that the site with the easy questions would drown in bad ones. To my knowledge though, it's never been suggested with the emphasis on a certain degree of, let's call it political, independence. That is new and brought about by recent events – Pëkka Oct 5 at 23:49
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    @011358smell the idea is having a separate Stack Overflow proper with its guiding values explicitly aimed at building a high quality repository of knowledge, given some independence from whatever path SE as a whole might take in the future in regards to advertising, more heavy handed ordres de mufti rather than letting mods sort things out, changing the way rep etc. works to be more welcoming to all levels of knowledge, etc. The proposal is basically a more elitist Stack Overflow, if you will. But, ideally, exclusively in a good way. – Pëkka Oct 5 at 23:52
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    I believe that there is an even more provocative question looming: shouldn't there be something that works similar to these sites, but has some quality control and is not dominated by commercial interests? That is, some sort of outreach program by universities aimed at sharing the knowledge with those who need the information. – Schrödinger's cat Oct 6 at 0:18
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    @RobertColumbia this is in no way a duplicate. It isn't about just starting a new SE site, the answer cannot be Area 51. If you disagree with this, vote it down. If you think it doesn't belong here, vote to close it as off topic. But please don't suggest spurious duplicates! – terdon Oct 6 at 3:06
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    Is this proposal only for a segregated Stack Overflow version, or also other sites on Stack Exchange? Because I feel a lot of the brunt of recent dissatisfaction actually came from those smaller sites. – Weckar E. Oct 6 at 3:08
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    We could rather create Sandbox-versions to entry level questions that don't make the grade. Handle newbie questions with kiddie-gloves there. Either separate the rep earned there from that of the mother site, or divide the rep earned by answer by a factor like five. I will testify that Math.SE also has this very bad. Homework help seekers. – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 6 at 4:48
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    @fixer1234 Fee? Absolutely not. We don't need another Experts Exchange or whatever was the name of that site... I would accept more ads (with proper measure, and no animated ones) for higher reputation users, if necessary. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 6 at 8:10
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    @Pëkka Please don't throw women under the bus: "making the place more welcoming/appealing to women". I know you don't mean it like that, but it implies that women are less capable or more sensitive or whatever. We are not. We don't need special privileges when it comes to participating in Stack Overflow. As long as we are treated the same as men, it is all good. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 6 at 11:09
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    @DalijaPrasnikar it implies that women are less capable or more sensitive or whatever. yeah, absolutely not my intention! I don't actually like this line of thinking at all (aren't we supposed to get rid of gender stereotypes?), but I've seen rep as a "masculine" concept expressed among notable SO staff which is why I included it. I'll get rid of it, it's a distraction irrelevant to the central idea – Pëkka Oct 6 at 15:57
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    @Pëkka Thanks. I know you don't actually mean it, but it may seem so to others. This is where whole "Welcoming Wagon" made a huge flop because they took random unsubstantiated Twitter ranting (from a woman) and built a policy around that. This may look like nice PR stunt, look we are doing something for the women, diversity and all but actually, it does more harm than good. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 6 at 16:06
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NO

First, the current fallout over pronouns is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the manifestation of far deeper issues. Issues that have been misdiagnosed and treated in the wrong way.

Your proposed solution, while on the surface it might scratch the root cause, still does not solve problems caused by wrong medications and even longer disease.

Poor content, why can't we just leave it there

The fastest way to get helped is being able to help yourself instead of waiting for outside help. Stack Overflow with its immense repository of Q&A is the perfect place where you can go search and find answers to your problems. But it is hard wading through a swamp in search for diamonds. If searching takes way too long, then it is not helpful. If you have to try dozens of answers on poorly asked questions only to figure out they are solutions to different problems then you are wasting your time.

This is why we need moderation and quality control, regardless of what kind of site it is - for newbies or advanced users.

Just as side note, I have been using Stack Overflow for years before I joined. Not because I was afraid or anything else. Simply, I could find all the answers I needed without asking any questions.

Moderation, down voting and close voting and feelings

Any kind of system with moderation based on quality will hurt people's feelings. You cannot moderate in a nice way. This is where the Welcoming policy failed. The problem was not generally in SO being a sexist and racist place, but being a moderated place.

When you receive a downvote, and when your question is closed it will always feel bad. When it feels bad, most of the time people will not try to see how they failed and what they did wrong. They will put the blame on others.

If you by any chance are part of some minority (or some other - fresh developers are most likely not a minority) group, it will often seem that the bad feedback you get is because you are part of that group and that you have been discriminated because of that.

Having said that, in communities this large there will always be incidences of really bad behavior. There is no way to avoid that. But what matters is that the Stack Exchange network has mechanisms that can deal with such things fast. This is what makes some communities at large sexist, racist, or unwelcoming on any other basis or not.

Lack of moderators

The main problem with Stack Overflow is the mass pileup of poor content (mainly questions) and not enough people with powerful enough tools that can cleanup that mess fast. Day, after day.

When all content cannot be moderated fast enough that leaves additional room for feeling unwelcome and specifically targeted. When you can see that some other poor question is doing fine, and yours is not, then it is very hard to accept that you have to try harder. No matter how politely someone tells you.

We are all newbies

While there are certain skills experienced developers will have compared to total beginners, technology changes so fast that we all need to learn new languages, tools, and acquire new skills.

Where can experienced developers go and ask basic question about development stack they never used? Where can they find answers to such questions?

Should they use Advanced SO or Open SO? Would we be able to close questions as duplicates on another site? Diluting knowledge is not a good option.

Blind leading blind

If all advanced users tend to stick to the advanced site, who will teach proper techniques to the newbies? They will maybe receive an answer on the Open SO, but having an answer does not mean you have a good answer. Learning bad coding practices can hurt more in the long run than being hurt over few downvotes.

False expectations

Another prominent issue with Stack Overflow is that new users are not well informed about what is expected of them. They are pushed into asking questions fast without clear up front warnings that asking poor or off topic questions can lead to a question ban. They have no idea what awaits them. They have no idea what the rules are.

Once they hit the ban it is very hard to get out, and this is one of main reasons SO is seemingly and elitist and unwelcoming place.

Wrong premises

It is not true that new users, students and beginners cannot ask good questions. I have seen really nice questions asked by high school students. Anyone can ask a good question if they put in some effort. Maybe not a stellar one, but certainly a question that will not be downvoted and close voted.

Also some questions may seem simple on the surface, but when you dig deeper they can end up being less than simple. Channeling "simple" questions to the Open site may result in not getting a deep knowledgeable answer that can be food for thought even for experts.

Welcoming policy

The Welcoming policy brought very little good. It only made people more nervous. Posting comments seems like walking on eggshells, and you can easily trip over and being flagged for even benign comments.

Comments asking for clarification or an MCVE are not rude/abusive

Under such circumstances, people are reluctant to give helpful comments to questions and tend to downvote and close vote without them. As the end result, instead of making the experience better for new users it is actually getting worse. And experienced users are not feeling good either, to the point they are contributing less.

Policing pronouns will end up the same way. Many misunderstandings, fewer comments, more downvotes, everybody will be on the edge and nobody will be happy.

More independence does not mean fewer rules

More independence for the Advanced site does not automatically imply we can misbehave there. Just like being nice escalated in a wrong way, not having to be as nice can do just the same.

More nice does not mean lower quality

A more tolerant SO does not mean anything will go. Soon enough, the new place will reach the same level of dissatisfaction because it will still require applying some quality standards.


What to do?

  • Stop policing people over their language. Taken out of the context, almost anything can look bad. Having respectful, professional conversation is one thing, forcing people to express themselves in particular way is another. We are all living beings, we cannot be put in the box. We all have good days and bad days.

  • Give people with moderating privileges better tools to clean up poor content faster, for instance reducing number of CV, as it was done in a recent SO experiment.

  • Make it more clear how the site works, what kind of content is acceptable and what are the consequences.

  • ...

  • And last, but not the least, listen to the community, especially to prominent moderators and contributors. They know what the challenges are, they have valuable insights, and they can offer some answers.

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    Totally agree about the extreme swing the be nice policy has come to. Tough love that helps teach a person how to fish is far more valuable than having to capitulate and just give them rotten fish – charlietfl Oct 6 at 11:58
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    Agree with a lot, if not most of this... but my conclusion is "yes" instead of "no" ;) Not sure whether the values expressed here are still in sync with where SO, Inc. wants to take the platform. Hence the desire to create a separate "ur-SO" trying to fix things the way described here (give realistic expectations, downvoting and closevoting, etc.) it is much easier to do this when there is a thriving "nice" place you can point folks to for whom the advanced place doesn't work out. – Pëkka Oct 7 at 15:45
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    I think expectations (section False expectations) is the crux of the matter. (are?). Managing expectations could go a long way. In the wider world there is the expectation of a place for beginners. For example, the Ask a question page looks, except for a little bit of information to the right, like any other forum (and thus alone reinforces the forum expectation). There is no information about doing research first and trying to find an – Peter Mortensen Oct 7 at 20:33
  • cont' - answer among the existing questions. We can not only blame it on the new users. – Peter Mortensen Oct 7 at 20:39
  • (OK, there is "Share your research" on the right. But do new users actually understand what it means? Do they read it? Usability testing could give an answer.) – Peter Mortensen Oct 7 at 20:46
  • @PeterMortensen That is true. There is enough blame to go around. I think that with better moderation tools and better tour we could improve SO to the point new users would generally do much better and would feel more welcome without sacrificing quality (too much). – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 7 at 20:46
  • From what I have seen "Share your research" quite commonly translates to "I have tried to Google, but could not find anything". Similarly, "Show your code" ends up with "I don't have code yet because I don't know how to start". – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 7 at 20:49
  • To be fair, "Guided mode" (which I presume is the default below a certain number of reputation points), addresses some of this. Under step "Title", it tries to find duplicates, based on the title alone. – Peter Mortensen Oct 7 at 21:11
  • Similar to what Pëkka said: I wholeheartedly agree with basically every single statement that you made (and you're in the lucky position that you can make all these statements - now that's sexist, somehow, but, ... back to the point) : I'd basically upvote and maybe even bounty this answer for the clear, calm, neutral summary of the issues that we went through in the last 2 years. The only thing that stops me from doing so is ... the "NO" at the top (!?). While you lay out the issues (and approaches for solving them), none of them seems to be a striking argument against the proposal... – Marco13 Oct 7 at 21:16
  • @Marco13 I would very much like if I could say Yes, but I think that answer would be more subjective, more delusional, so to speak. I am afraid that because of all the other point that site would end up having same fate as current SO. Unless that site would be totally open, absolutely unmoderated (besides, of course spam and other inappropriate content) – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 7 at 21:44
  • Not sure whether I understood that correctly: There would be a moderation, and even stricter ("more elitist") than on OpenSO. So if the "fate" refers to the technical/organizational issues that you mentioned (and not the ...ehrm... political ones), I think that many of them would not apply to AdvancedSO (people there would be eager to moderate, accepting votes, have the right premises, etc). Maybe you meant that similar issues could come at a different "level"? (E.g. who defines "Advanced" - there's room for dispute, sure...). I'm also skeptical, but the idea seems worth considering, at least. – Marco13 Oct 7 at 21:59
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    @Marco13 Advanced SO could have stricter moderation, it could strive to more quality, but I am not worried about Advanced SO, but for Open SO... with same level of moderation currently is in place, Open SO would still end up being unwelcoming place... the only way you can make it absolutely friendly is to allow everything. But generally, yes problem is where to make division, with math and English it is easier to split between beginners and advanced levels. Seam is more clear. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 8 at 7:16
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On my hiatus from Stack Overflow, I had machinated on the possibility of doing something like this - a new site which was geared towards the working professional programmer which would crack down heavily on "basic" programming questions.

There are some significant issues with doing this, though.

1. Defining the scope.

"Advanced" Stack Overflow implies that programming can be "advanced". In my experience, it is the case that there are some basic programming skills which can appear to be magical to the average layman (e.g. soldering + hardware debugging as opposed to software debugging), which doesn't give us much room to work with.

One thought would be to eliminate "basic" programming questions, but that implies that there is some common definition of "basic". For instance, I would consider arrays and collections to be fairly basic, but if I'm doing something tricky with them that involves concurrency, would that also be "basic" to someone who's been doing it for years? What about the intricacies of cross-platform I/O? How "basic" is that if you can't do certain things on certain OSes?

Another thought would be to limit it to just frameworks and libraries, but that leads to another problem.

2. If a library or framework is sufficiently popular, there are enough people trying to learn it through Stack Overflow.

Having known nothing about Ruby on Rails before taking a Rails job a few years back, I had to basically lean on Code School and Stack Overflow for guidance. I didn't really ask a lot of questions except where it was really confusing (and that's more of a credit to Code School at the time).

However, my experience and dedication to learning the craft is evidently not the same as others', since we still get a smattering of framework questions which could be answered by a few more hours in perusing the documentation.

This leads me to another thought I had.

3. Stack Overflow is what keeps the lights on.

There's really no escaping this fact - without Stack Overflow being the behemoth it is or selling the products that it does, we wouldn't have hardware on which to complain about this.

Put another way, if Stack Overflow split up, we'd have a clear divide on expertise and accessibility between the two. My biggest fear is that this would further weaken the site and harm our intentions by causing a bigger drop in ad revenue to the main Stack Overflow site, and by making it less palatable for actual paying customers to help keep the lights on.

Even moving to a model like MathOverflow wouldn't work. They're a completely separate entity to Stack Exchange. To run something of that scale, we'd need a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to do so and a foundation to help steer it.

We ain't got that right now, and I'm not seeing one emerge anytime soon.


To be blunt, the only way I see anything of this magnitude working is if we had an established 501(c)(3) looking to join with Stack Exchange. This would be the only way we could keep our autonomy separate from corporate's goals, and even that's subject to the kind of agreement signed. We lack the foundation of an established organization dedicated to accomplishing the somewhat fuzzy goals laid out above, and we lack the infrastructure or need to move it into the Stack Exchange network.

If we did this the other way 'round, it'd take years for us to realize any actual benefits.

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    Well put, and good points. Agree this could only happen if there were a huge amount of goodwill and effort from a lot of highly influential people dedicated to making it a reality... and selling it to the powers that be within SO corporate. I think 1.) could be worked out though, this is the kind of thing the community & CMs are very good at – Pëkka Oct 6 at 16:22
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    @Pëkka How could it be sold to management? The only angle I can think of is that such a split would avoid the seemingly never-ending string of PR nightmares. – Zev Spitz Oct 6 at 19:20
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I know I haven't been around, so take this as you will. Sorry for the stream of consciousness approach, I just can't spend the time making a good argument, but hopefully this provides some value.

I agree with nearly everything said, however I don't think the proposed site can work within the Stack Overflow, Inc structure. Makoto is right in that it needs to be born of a non-profit organization.

Unfortunately, that will land it squarely in competition with Stack Overflow. If all their experts go to a new platform they will have a loss in ad revenue, and careers revenue. Clearly they can handle it, given the $60million revenue they're getting per year, but it's equally clear that the corporate/capitalist vision now being enacted across the network is preventing the community from succeeding in a direction that supports the community itself.

Like many before it, CDDB, IMDB, Stack Overflow, Inc is a profit machine controlled by and for investors.

The community no longer exists as a participatory entity within that structure, and is merely the cow being milked.

I'm glad and grateful it exists, but it should be painfully clear that the community wants more, and the company is not and will never be able to meet those needs. It's not an issue of will or desire, I suspect that the structure is fundamentally incompatible with what the expert community needs.

This puts us in a difficult position. If another site is started, there's a huge company with extensive legal resources available to prevent a lot of similar features from going live without a huge fight. Further, trying to gather experts together and rebuild the community that's been lost is not small feat.

Jeff and Joel were able to build it via word of mouth from their respected and well known blogging platforms. They started with a self-selecting community of developers who already had the culture they espoused on their sites. They had a critical mass that prevented the community from getting away from them during the first year or two when the community could have truly (and did, at times) directed the work.

Now there's no easy way to call the experts back to a batter site, and even if we did we'd have the almost impossible task of wrangling them into a cohesive community with a good culture.

There are nearly impossible challenges, but I think it's the only way forward.

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I don't think an advanced SO addresses the problem

I think this problem is way bigger. Of all the sites on the network I think SO is the most likely to survive this debacle with the small cultural/religious/social ones the most at risk. I feel like unless something changes those sites are destined to die or worse yet not reflect the communities they claim to represent.

I think in many ways it's unsurprising a mod on a smaller site was the first to be targeted.

If a big change of focus doesn't happen in SE Inc soon, I think the smaller sites will ultimately need to move somewhere else, their communities are no longer welcome. I would like us to make sure that they have a future somewhere, whatever that might look like.

  • I expect the smaller sites will also never generate enough income to justify the time they take up of StackEchange staff. – Ian Ringrose Oct 15 at 10:53
  • Without question from the smaller sites being in the sidebar, most of the smaller site users would never have discovered them. – Ian Ringrose Oct 15 at 10:53
  • @IanRingrose I know and I think its really sad. Users all across SE get slowly marginalised and pushed out of the sites they helped to build, I think this is happening more quickly on the little ones. – Luke McGregor Oct 15 at 10:59
  • If this story has a neat beginning, it's not Monica's firing, but Aza's resignation. – TRiG 12 hours ago
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    Aza's update is important in evaluating that statement. – Monica Cellio 10 hours ago

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