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Note: by contribution I mean all effort put into growing the community starting from useful edits and ending in moderation

The recent events that involved lots of moderators leaving as a protest made me wonder about the rationale behind what seems to be a very easy dismissal of a precious moderator (multiple sites, a huge amount of moderation effort).

The first was to answer a question on Politics based on this answer:

Is there a push to use gender-neutral language and gender pronouns when given in the United States?

The most upvoted answer seems to say yes, as a very recent phenomenon.

This might provide an ideological answer to what we have seen in the last days, but I have also noticed SO making an effort to make a profit (which is not a bad thing at all) and this decision seems to be "bad for the business":

  • talent loss - moderators typically encompass a lot of qualities (knowledgeable about the community matters, as less biased as possible, knows about conflict management, pro bono effort, etc.). Any quality accumulation is very hard to find and companies often spend millions to find such persons.

  • there is a lot of world outside US - more than 70% of the users live outside US and small technicalities related to "gender-neutral language" might be of little interest to them. Of course this does not mean that "be nice policy" is not a "must". Just that many care more about the "spirit" rather than the "letter" of the law.

  • apparent breaking of its own CoC which promotes being patient and welcoming. Quickly removing moderation rights from a member certainly does not look as patient to me. Also enforcement has three steps and only the second one triggers suspension (in this case removing the moderation rights).

  • lack of proportionality - there seems to be a lack of proportionality between action and alleged "crime". While the SO community does not have to obey this legal principle, I find it to be common sense and also applicable here.

  • apparent arbitrary punishment - there is still no clear connection between a "crime" and the removal of moderation rights ("PreCrime"). Based on some comments and answers the moderator seems to have broken no valid rule and this seems more like a thoughtcrime.

Most, if not all, of these practices tend to erode trust and decrease quality of the community posts.

I think that nobody can predict where this policy will lead in let's say five years, but it is highly probable to abruptly decrease the community posts quality in the near future.

Coming back to my question:

Why does Stack Overflow seem to be less welcoming to its top contributors?

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    "but I have also noticed SO making an effort to make a profit and this decision seems to be "bad for the business":" That seems to be a key point. – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 6 at 16:11
  • When you are specifically asking about stackoverflow.com, why are you asking on MSE and not MSO? – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Oct 6 at 16:17
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    @πάνταῥεῖ - "making a profit" is not a bad thing at all. What intrigues me is that these decisions seems to work towards losing an important fraction of the community (the best part I would say) and thus reducing an incentive to come and use the platform in the first place. – Alexei Oct 6 at 16:17
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    @GhostCat - I am specifically asking for Stack Overflow (the whole company managing SO + many others) as this has affected multiple sites at once. – Alexei Oct 6 at 16:19
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    Short answer: They're trying to monetize the site in every possible way as it's no longer a small start-up but an expanding corporate. That surely includes attracting the average populace ("newbies" in SE lingo) in large numbers, as they believe the worth of the site is more strongly correlated with the number of active visitors and users rather than the number of experts and Q&A quality. Now this certainly clashes with the priorities of the expert users (top contributors). – S.D. Oct 6 at 16:19
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    @Alexei I am not saying that making profit is a bad thing. But chasing away veteran users because the company thinks they might be bad for making profit is. These were the people who had build that product. I don't want to complain or talk further about the reasonings why a CM suspended my Stack Overflow account recently, but I think it exactly falls into that category. – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 6 at 16:21
  • @Blue - I feel the same. However, I also feel that they should think more globally (even leaving the moral part that these users actually build the sites): it might be more likely for a veteran or a moderate user (like me) to recommend Stack Overflow for Teams since they are more knowledgeable about the platform and understand the advantages. I have done so where I work + other company and this happened after being convinced that it is a good engine. – Alexei Oct 6 at 16:25
  • How would you define "top contributors" for this question? That would be useful information. If it is based on reputation, how many points do you think defines a "top contributor" here? – Tim Holt Oct 7 at 21:24
  • @TimHolt - there are many ways to contribute to any SE site besides gaining reputation: from making edits (increase readability, clarity etc.) to review various posts (this is especially hard on Stack Overflow as opposed to other sites due to very high volume) and ending with moderation that requires a special skillset. Also, if you check the users that provide the most constructive criticism on Meta in relation to SO changes, you will see that the vast majority have more than 10K reputation + active on reviewing queues + optional moderation diamond on 1+ communities. – Alexei Oct 8 at 11:57
  • Thanks @Alexei - I guess then as a "top contributor" I feel like the title should be "to some of its top contributors". I guess I'm not feeling any issues personally. – Tim Holt Oct 8 at 16:36
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It is surprisingly difficult to answer this question without sounding cynical, but I'll try to give my views on the matter:

Stack Exchange, Inc. was not profitable for the longest time. A surprising number of tech startups are not profitable for many years, as they try to build a community or customer base. In this time, the Stack Exchange network grew and shaped itself.

However, somewhat recently, Stack Exchange, Inc. has started to monetize the network more heavily. This can be seen in several instances, such as:

This all plays neatly into the idea that the 25k rep user is not really the target audience of Stack Exchange anymore. Many people had this vision of the Stack Exchange network being a system of very knowledgeable experts in specific domains, being able to answer questions nobody else can. And while that description may be true for some people, they make up but the smallest fraction of the user base, and by extent, the daily ads being delivered.

The far larger part of Stack Exchange's daily view come from people who want to know how to quit vim, how to add an item to a list or just in general how on earth git works. These questions have a lot of views. More views than any of the questions that most of us have ever written combined. These questions are not aimed at the 25k rep user, that asks a highly specific question that not many people are equipped to answer. They're aimed at people who want to get stuff done quick, who just happen to be on Stack Exchange.

Simply put, the fact that low-reputation newcomers outnumber high-reputation veterans thousands to one, makes the low-reputation newcomer the more important goal. And as long as the newcomers come, Stack Exchange, Inc. will consider the high-reputation veteran a "necessary evil" to deal with.

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    With low-reputation cutoff being probably at 200 points. – Kreiri Oct 7 at 10:19
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    @Kreiri I thought about including this part, but given that this privilege can be taken away at any moment, I decided not to. But You are indeed correct, as soon as you have more than 200 points, SE, Inc. probably starts caring less about you, not more. – MechMK1 Oct 7 at 11:16
  • I think most users, not only low-reputation newcomers, use Stack Overflow to find code examples (one of the goals of the ill-fated documentation project - as official documentation often is very much lacking examples, especially simple real-world ones, not just contrived examples). – Peter Mortensen Oct 7 at 19:03
  • @PeterMortensen My answer focussed on the Stack Exchange network as a whole, not just Stack Overflow, although it is to my knowledge the largest stite in the network. – MechMK1 Oct 9 at 8:38

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